In the era of Google Panda, we know that making sure the way in which your website is set out is vital if you want to reduce the risk of the algorithm finding fault with it, leading to a dampening of rankings across your site as Google showcases the loss of trust that they have for the site.
With so much to think about such as semantics, unique content and snippets, serving the right response codes etc, it can be easy to forget that sometimes your site is going to need some of the basics tweaking, especially in ‘out of the box’ CMS systems such as WordPress and other blogging platforms, namely the 404 pages that show users that content that they were looking for is no longer there, whether that be temporary or for the test of time.
Well while on the look out for news and tips that we might have to share with you, it seems that Google’s John Mueller has given us all another snippet of information that may well help you along your way to the top, albeit as a direct response to a question that he was asked on social networking site Twitter.
Mueller was asked whether 404 pages were able to pass link equity through to other areas of the site by one webmaster that seemed to be looking towards creating a custom not found page for his site, hoping that he would be able to incorporate a link here and there back into his site to allow the equity that a former page held to be re-purposed.
On reaching out to John, Naor Kahana asked the question that many others have overlooked:
As you can see from the answer given by John, any pages on your site that issue a header status code of 404 (Not Found) or 410 (Gone) are not read by Google crawlers, adding to the argument that you should look to create customised pages that could prove valuable to visitors to point them in the direction of relevant content elsewhere.
Although looking about the web for a good example of this, it seems that picking a site and therefore a URL that fits the bill isn’t that easy but lets take a look at what ‘out of the box’ WordPress looks like when you don’t create a custom page:
With that in mind, it seems that some websites do put a little more effort into their 404 pages, but do they really offer any value more than comedy?
So, take a look at your own 404 page and ask yourself… Does this really help my users?