When a 404 Error is not caused by a typo or internet connection glitch, aka when it’s not on the user or visitor end, that means it’s on the website’s end, aka your end. And that’s an issue that you should care about.
The most common reason for a 404 Error is what is referred to as a broken link. Well what causes a broken link? Most commonly broken links crop up when a page has been removed. As in, the source that is being linked to no longer exists. This typically happens in one of two ways:
1) Minor changes to your website. Let’s say you deem page no longer necessary but forget you link to it from other places. For example, in this article right here, we provided a link at the first mention of ‘404 Error’ to our ‘What is a 404 Error?’ blog post. If we took that blog post down, that link above would then result in a 404 Error. Another example of this is let’s say you had a service or product list on your website and there’s a service or product you no longer offer. You’ll most likely remove that page, right? Sure. But let’s say you posted a message on social media to promote that service at one time and linked to that page. Or another real-life case could be that someone who was interested in that service bookmarked that page to revisit. In either case, once that product or service page is removed from your website, anyone who may find and try to follow that old social media link or clicks on their saved bookmark will instead get a 404 Error.
2) Major changes to your website. We see it time and time again when a company undergoes a major website updates or builds a brand new site, the old site gets completely scrapped. All those old URLs that have been recorded by visitors (most likely as bookmarks as we stated above) and by search engines, all that Internet history is tossed without hesitation.
Broken links, and subsequent 404 Errors, have a negative impact on the visitor experience to your website and Internet history that’s build up. Ultimately, broken links and 404 Errors can result in what the Metisentry team calls “website suicide.”
Now that you know a couple major ways 404 Errors can happen, and may have already or currently be happening to you, stay tuned to learn just how damaging they can be and how to avoid “website suicide”.