3 Inbound-Friendly Alternatives To The Traditional 404 Page

blog author
Sam Zastrow
Director of Operations

If your business sells products online, you likely have a lot of expired content and therefore a handful of 404'd pages. This can be troublesome, as 404 pages have the potential to turn visitors away from your site. A viewer who gets a 404 error when perusing your content may be encouraged to close the tab or leave your site altogether.

The traditional 404 error also damages your site's SEO potential. Google and other search engines have limits on the amount of pages they can crawl on a given site. If you have pages that redirect to a 404, you're wasting your crawl allowance.

Thankfully, Stephanie Chang at SEOmoz put together a detailed guide on how to effectively deal with expired content. While the guide is worth checking out, I've summarized three options for dealing with expired content below:

  1. Create a custom 404 Page. If your site uses 404 error pages, make them useful. Link the 404 pages to pages related to what visitors were trying to find when they got 404'd. Doing so can boost your keyword rankings and help you avoid losing visitors who may otherwise leave the site.
  2. Create a 301 Permanent Direct. Chang recommends 301 redirecting expired content to a relevant page because it helps retain the external link equity built up in the expired content. The only problem with this strategy is that it can be difficult to find an appropriate page to redirect to. Generally, try to redirect to a page that won't expire and that falls under the same category as the page you're redirecting from.
  3. Leave the page as it is. Sometimes, content on a page that has expired can still be valuable. You may be better off leaving this page active, with a message noting the reason for its irrelevance. For example, if a popular but out-of-stock product is still generating visits, you can leave it up with a message saying the product is out of stock and then link visitors to similar alternatives. However, Chang cautions against overusing this method because like 404's, these pages count towards your search engine crawl limit.

To learn more ways to optimize your website for search engines, check out our webinar on SEO or get in touch.

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