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Dealing with 404s in Your Magento Store
December 12, 2014
It’s happened to everyone. You’re browsing the internet, trying to find a very specific item. Just as you’re about to land on the exact information you need, the dreaded 404 message appears. “Page not Found.” No!
404 error messages are most common with dynamic websites that change constantly. If they are starting to show up on your own website, there’s any number of reasons that you might be getting them. Maybe you’ve had a number of products go out of stock. Maybe some of the job listings on your website have expired or you’ve deleted some older pages. Whatever the reason, once your website starts spitting out those pesky error messages it means that it’s time to make some choices.
“Why are 404s annoying?”
A 404 error is an impediment between your customer and what they’re hoping to find. Errors make for an irritating user experience. If a customer starts landing on multiple 404 pages in one session, they might lose faith in your website. Too many 404s lead to dissatisfaction and bounces. A potential customer following an outside link might even hit the back button, leaving your page without investigating any further. That means you failed to capture a potential lead. Your ultimate goal is always to keep visitors moving through your site and 404s make that job harder.
“But, first, what could be causing that 404 error?”
“How do you know when to use a 301 redirect and when to let the page 404?”
“But won’t 404s hurt my Google ranking?”
No! Google doesn’t take the number of 404s into account when determining your site’s ranking. You won’t be penalized for deleting old pages, so don’t let that get in your way. However, Google does have a certain crawl budget for your website, so if a crawler is spending a lot of time moving through your error pages, it might be taking away from more valuable, working pages. Given time, however, if the same url is constantly returning a 404, Google will stop crawling it.
“Why wouldn’t I just use a redirect on all my 404s?”
Using a large number of 301s affects page load speed across your entire site. You also want to watch out for redirect chains, the eternal circle of redirects that occurs when too many are layered on top of each other. Think about it like this: are you going to remember every time you deleted a page? Every time you redirected it to a different page? And every time you redirected that page? And the next? Probably not. But, with each cycle, your page load speed is slowing down and you’re running a risk that visitors will leave in favor of a faster site.
When using redirects, you want to be certain to:
Something else to keep in mind is that 404 pages don’t have to be a total downer. Instead, they can create a new opportunity to connect with your customers. Put a major call to action on your 404 page! Provide valuable information to your audience! Many stores use the 404 page as a contact form to capture client information.
Another successful approach is to make your visitors smile with a personalized or humorous approach. 404 pages are a great place to include a funny image or text. Want to see a few creative approaches? Check out this link: The Best 404 Pages on the Internet
Magento allows you to manually set the default 404 page template for your store.
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