Many people ask us, ok, actually no one has ever asked us, What Is A 404 Redirect. But it does deserve some attention, especially if you are trying to improve your search rankings.
At a technical level, the 404 is a message to say that the communication with the requested server is good but the page you are looking for is not there. A 404 code is often returned when pages once existed and have since been deleted OR the page has been moved.
You can think of it as the old school return to sender the post office does when you mail a letter and that person no longer lives there. While its nice that the post office did that, it provides no real value to you as the sender. Where are they? When did they move? That would be great info to have. Maybe even an automatic forwarding of your mail to their new location (that’s a 310 redirect which will talk about in another post).
How you handle these 404 redirects is an important part of any SEO campaign. While its nice to have a page that simply says “content not found”, it would provide much better customer service if you gave your visitors options such as access to other pages, or redirect to the sitemap.
While still technically a 404 page, the page can be constructed to offer value and should have easy navigation structures in place for people who do accidently land on these pages.
This goes for search engine bots (spiders) as well. Give them a link to follow.
Earlier I mentioned it would help improve your search rankings and it will, by not hurting you. Having improperly handled 404 errors can have a negative impact on your search rankings.
If you would like to discuss What A 404 Redirect is more details, give us a call.