There are many reasons you will get connection errors when opening a webpage. These errors appear regardless of the browser you use, Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge or Safari. Most of the browser errors occur not due to the browser but due to the problem with the site or your ISP or your computer. And 404 not found error is one such error generally occurs due to the site unavailability. Let us discuss different aspects what is the meaning of this error and how to fix 404 not found error.
What is 404 Page Not Found Error?
In order to answer the question, you should first understand the basics of how the internet connection works. Basically the communication protocol is called HTTP or HTTPS. The browser running on a client computer sends a URL request to the server physically located somewhere on the world. This URL (or domain or site address) is resolved to an IP address through different servers located between your location and the server’s location. This domain name resolving process is done through a network of servers referred as Domain Name System (DNS).
In this communication process between the browser and server, the server sends a response to each request received from the browser. These responses are called HTTP status codes indicating the status of the response. 404 is one of the HTTP status code in 4xx series, returned from the server when the requested URL from the browser is not available. The description of the 404 status code is – Not Found. So the browser displays the 404 – Not Found error to indicate the page you are trying to open is not available at the server. Below is an example of 404 not found error from Google.
Now that you understand what is 404. Let us explore how to fix it. The fixing part has two aspects – one is being a user and other is being a site owner.
Fix for website user:
Check the URL
As you understand the error is received from the server, but the reason could be the wrong request from the browser. That means you have entered something wrong in the URL. Check the URL is entered correct without spelling mistake and try to open the correct page again. As you can see in the above picture, the correct URL should be “google.com/adsense”. You will get 404 not found error with the wrong URL “googel.com/adsense” is entered in the address bar.
Are You Trying with Breadcrumb?
Most of the structured sites offer breadcrumb navigation to help users go to up or down the level easily.
When you get 404 Not Found Error, try go to up/down level to see whether the related content is still available. For example, on this site we use the navigation “Home > Category > sub-category > URL”. If you can’t find the URL then go to the sub-category level to look for the relevant content.
Accessing Page from Bookmark
You may also get 404 not found error when trying to open page from your bookmark. The site owner might have changed the page URL or deleted it. But your bookmark may be still pointing to the unavailable URL and resulting in 404 not found error.
In such case, we recommend to search in Google to get the relevant content from the same or different site.
Clearing and Changing DNS
As explained above, DNS plays an important role in determining the page availability. When the URL is changed or deleted by the site owner, it may not get updated instantly through all DNS servers. Though this is a remote case, no wrong in flushing DNS on your PC and also try with Google Public DNS for bypassing your ISP’s default servers.
Use Search on the Site or Google
Mostly the 404 page will have a search box to help users searching the content on the site. You can make use of the search box and try to find the relevant content you are looking for. If you can’t find relevant articles on the same site, then the best choice is to search in Google to see whether you can find what you want.
Contact Site Owner
If it is an important content for you, which you can’t find on other sites, then contact the site owner. Inform the admin of the site that you need to access the page. This will help the admin of the site to check and retrieve the deleted information for you.
For a Site Owner
But from the site owner’s perspective serving 404 page can cause different types of problems:
- Users always think the 404 not found error is because of the site owner’s mistake. So they never inform the owner or start avoiding the site when they see frequent 404 error.
- Fewer users mean less sales or less revenue from advertisements.
- 404 page is also counted as a page view from the server point of view. Hence 404 error affects the cost of hosting when you have hosted based on the page views.
So it is essential to resolve 404 issues in order to improve the user experience, SEO and reduce the hosting cost. Below are some of the ways to mitigate 404 error:
Use Broken Link Checker Tools
Changing the URL is very common based on the performance of the page. Whenever you change URL of a page, the old page URL will result in 404 not found error. Use broken link checker tool to analyze the entire site and found all errors. Then it will be easy to fix them.
Alternatively you can use Google Search Console to find the 404 errors and fix them on your site. This task will be easy with the plugins, when you use content management systems like WordPress.
Set 301 Redirects
Remember to set redirect from the old page to new page when the URL is changed. Also, if you are deleting a page, ensure to redirect to the appropriate page. This is called 301 redirect and the process of setting up 301 redirects may change based on the content management system you use for your site.
Use Custom 404 Page with Search Box
Maintenance of a site is a continuous activity, today you don’t have 404 error doesn’t mean you will never have it later. The good part is you can create a “/404.html” or “/404.php” page with your custom content and serve this page to users. Insert a search box, important videos and links on the 404 page so that the users landing on the page will not get disappointed. Probably they may like your 404 page design and start following your content afterwards.