The importance of link checking in website management
The problem of so-called link-rot can touch each of us webmasters. Multiple HTTP 404's are today's plague as websites grow and this results in organically larger volume of content. With increased amount of content, the risk of falling on broken links is higher.
But what is error 404? It's simply a situation in which client is trying to connect with server in order to download page on his computer but the page doesn't exist anymore on the server. Connection status is marked as succeeded but there is nothing to display as the content is no longer there.
We can also mention about "soft 404's" as they can be quite difficult to detect by using some of the automated methods. Their genesis comes from situation in which content cannot be found but the server is returning connection status error HTTP 200 (OK).
How to easily detect problems with the page?
Registering an account with 'webmaster tools' available in nearly every search engine can help a lot in managing the website. Multiple errors are being easily detected and showcased in a basic way. Automated software can be also used for increasing effectiveness. There are plenty of free and premium programs out there.
How 'Page not found' errors affect Search Engine Optimization?
404s can be harmful for your website, especially when it comes to SEO. Google won't de-index a website due to this type of errors but will surely mark your page as not offering rich user-experience. There is high chance that Google won't directly decrease your rankings, at least not right away. That's because Google is aware that such an errors are being born quickly and are quickly vanishing off the user's page. Internet is a dynamic environment and Google understands it probably the best.
However, this problem may wait to be resolved but waiting too long can cause lower rankings in search engine results. That's because Google while encountering error 404's is not able to crawl other websites, index the content, mark keywords on your website that match the search queries and finally, showcase a website in the proper place in search engine results.
Why 404 errors are decreasing user experience
User is expecting a website to offer high quality content targeted exactly on his needs at the current moment. If a website is able to provide the end-user what he was searching for then both user is happy and search engines are. However, even one badly situated broken link can ruin all user experience in just one moment. This often causes user to bounce back to search engine results page and continue his searches and. This also means Google wants to provide only content that matches user's needs. If those errors won't be taken care of, the website will slowly but systematically go down in search engine results.
We can use this old method to somehow retain the website's authority in user's eyes. If they'll fall on a broken link due to the fact that page have been moved to new URL or deleted, we can create a redirect that will pass all of the equity that the previous page had received from inbound links to the new page.
Custom 404 Page
Webmaster can make the user's life easier by defining a custom 404 page. This often includes custom search field, list of useful links or content that is related to user's query. Thus user's experience can be still saved thanks to the tricks like that.
URL Removal request
If the content have been permanently deleted and webmaster doesn't want search engines to index the specific directory then he can submit a so-called url removal request. This is often available in the search engine's webmaster tools. It simply tells the search engine to lose interest in that particular directory and not crawl it.
Broken links are harmless if they don't live long on the website that's why webmaster should always have an eye on this matter. Internet offers plenty of helpful tools to get rid of them as well as counteraction methods that will surely help everyone who is managing a website.