What is error code 404?

The message “error 404” is well known to web users. It appears when it has not been possible to load a page or when the visitor clicks on a dead link. This code belongs to the standardised language, http, and can have greater or lesser consequences in terms of user experience and your listing.

How is the “error 404” message generated, and what are its causes and the repercussions for your website? We will answer these questions.

The different causes of error message 404

In general, the message “error 404” appears when the user clicks on a link that no longer exists, also known as a dead or broken link. The web browser will send a request to the server where the information is stored. If this cannot be found, the server will generate a 404 page, thereby informing the web user via the browser that it is not possible to access this content. However, this error code can have other causes.

  • The site’s internal network has not been changed: if the page’s URL, the text, or the images present have been moved without changing the links your browser will display an “error 404” message.. The page still exists, but it is no longer in the same place.
  • If the URL has been incorrectly entered in the bar of your browser, you will definitely encounter a 404 message.
  • Was your Internet connection interrupted? Is the server of the site in question not in operation? Here too the 404 code will be displayed.
  • If the domain name has been deleted or can no longer be converted to an IP address, the 404 code will appear on your browser.

But how can we explain the existence of these dead links on the web? In reality, webmasters are not always informed of a page’s deletion or of its outsourcing. In addition, search engines will continue to display them in their results pages, without it being truly possible to consult these links. Encountering an “error 404” message can lead to consequences of varying severity. It is therefore of the utmost importance to act quickly and efficiently.

The consequences of an error code appearing

Of course, the appearance of an “error 404” code is not devoid of consequences for the visitor, nor as regards your listing.

  • Dissatisfaction among web users: what could be more frustrating than not being able to access the information you’re looking for? Visitors will lose interest in the site, lose confidence in it, and desert it as a result, thus leading to a dip in traffic.
  • The impact on your listing: search engines use indexing robots to browse the different platforms present on the web and list them based on numerous criteria. In this regard, if one of these robots encounters too many dead links on a website, this site will lose its positioning on the search pages. This again will see traffic drop off.

Web users: solutions for countering error 404

We have seen that the appearance of the 404 code is not always due to a broken link. It could also be useful to try various methods to access the content you are interested in. Refreshing the page is, of course, the first trick that might help you. Basically, your browser may have encountered a problem when loading the page.

Then, make sure that the URL you have entered is the correct one. Also don’t hesitate to return to the relevant site’s home page, then search the item you’re interested in via the site’s search bar. Similarly, you could very well search the domain name as well as an adapted keyword to find the content using search engines such as Google and the like.

Finally, deleting your memory cache and cookies is often the solution to a good number of problems encountered during browsing. To do so you just need to go into the settings of the browser you have selected.

Webmaster: how do you identify dead links?

Evidently, as a webmaster, you have the responsibility of creating a network that is of good quality both internally and externally, as well as of ensuring the maintenance of your website, by seeking out dead links.

There are different solutions to do so, such as Google’s Search Console, or tools such as Dead Link Checker and W3C Link Checker, which will help you with this task. Once the broken links have been spotted, you can delete them.

Nevertheless, the task is far from simple, since it requires contacting the webmasters of sites also listing your links. The best solution remains the personalisation of your “error 404” page.

Redirection or the creation of a personal 404 page

We have seen that being redirected to an “error 404” message is particularly frustrating for the visitor who will see it as a lack of maintenance and leave the website in question. Offering a personalised “code 404 error” page is thus definitely the method most advised to webmasters.

  • Personalisation of the 404 page can help maintain the confidence of web users: by opting for a page showing a bit of humour you can then provide the visitors with something in the way of compensation. Furthermore, this is also the chance to show that this type of problem is a real challenge for you. Don’t be scared to show creativity and originality with the aim of offering an attractive page that matches the design of your website.
  • The option of providing a justification: redirected or deleted content? It would be good to inform visitors of this. It is also a chance to engage web users. You could, for example, encourage them to return to the home page, or offer relevant and similar content to that which has been deleted, and which might also answer their questions.

Need more information? Ask our specialists for advice. Contact our sales division