One thing that always drives me crazy are hitting 404 pages that look and act like 404dead pages. If you don’t know what a 404 page is, have you ever gone to a site and it says page does not exist, error or a bunch of random lines of code and folder directories. That page you land on is usually a 404 page or dead page for the website. The reality is that some of these 404 pages can end up being goldmines if you work with them correctly. Let’s go over a few ways to boost your seo and increase your sales with 404 redirects.
SEO benefit from a 404 redirect.
Wasted crawls. One of the things you should be looking at is your server logs for Googlebot, Slurp, MSNbot and all of the other major crawlers. Spiders and robots will only index a portion of your site each time it visits and it is your job to make sure it crawls the most important pages and in order each time it visits. If for some reason you really don’t want a page to exist or be found anymore which is why you 404 it, you need to check your server logs to see if any of the search engines are hitting those 404 pages and you need to block, no index/no follow and redo your crawl paths and sitemaps so that you aren’t wasting crawls on pages that you don’t want to exist or have show up. This will help to get the right pages indexed and stop indexing the pages that you don’t want to have found.
Restoring backlinks. If for some reason you have 404 pages that are getting traffic on them, why not restore them or use a 301 on them? The traffic could be from the search engines (SEs), or they could be coming from internal links on your site. Other times the traffic can be coming from backlinks from relevant sites. If the traffic is coming from a backlink and starting to appear out of nowhere, it could mean that the site which is linking to you just got more authority, started ranking for a new term, has a new owner that knows what he/she is doing, etc… It is important to see what is going on and why you are getting traffic to this page now. If it turns out to be a good backlink from a good site, either restore the page so that you get credit and can pass the link and traffic onto other pages on your site, or if the copy is relevant to another page within your site then try to 301 redirect it to that page. There are a ton of ways to work on this but the important thing to remember is to not give away a good backlink or create a bad user experience.
Sales from a 404 redirect.
It is extremely easy to convert sales from 404 redirects, if the traffic is good. The problem is that many ecommerce sites and Affiliates end up not paying attention to what they are doing with their brand and their customers. If customers are finding 404 dead pages that aren’t designed to provide information, you are creating a bad user experience. Why not take that 404 dead page and provide a direct response styled page to convert them into sales or help your website visitors find their way through your site easier. It isn’t hard to design a 404 page and it is even better when you make them useful. What’s even more fun is when you start split testing them against each other for conversions, etc… If you are changing designs, structure, etc… or have a bunch of 404 redirects out there, it is important to design them into a direct response styled page or a page to help your visitors find their way through your site. Why create a bad user experience for your customers when you can easily create a good one that can also generate sales.
404 redirects are one of the most forgotten pieces of your user experience and are ignored pieces of SEO. Most sites have a few 404 dead pages and they usually go ignored which is usually a bad thing. All you need to do is design them or restore them. If they have backlinks pointing to them, all of the sudden you now have a new way to boost your site or increase your SERPs. The thing to remember is that an undesigned 404 page is not a good user experience and allowing a page with backlinks to die can and will hurt you. Design them or restore them and your site will be a bit better off in the long run.