How to Interpret and Troubleshoot Error HTTP 404

Let's consider causes of 404 HTTP error and all the ways to prevent its occurrence.

How to Interpret and Troubleshoot Error HTTP 404

What is a 404 error?

A 404 error is a response code that occurs when a page or resource cannot be found on the server. It is one of the most common errors that web users may encounter while browsing the internet. Typically, this error will appear as “Error 404: Not Found” in your browser window, but there are other variations you might see such as “404 File or Directory Not Found” and “HTTP 404 – File not found”.

Google 404 error page
Google 404 error page

A 404 error means that the URL requested by a user cannot be located on the server's filesystem or was deleted from it without any redirects created for it. This type of message is usually sent to browsers when they request a web page with an incorrect address, such as if they mistype an address or enter an outdated link.

Reasons for HTTP 404 errors

HTTP 404 Errors can have a variety of causes. One common reason is that the web page or resource that was requested has been moved to a different location or deleted without any redirects being created for it. This could be due to a typo on the user's part, such as entering an outdated URL address, or simply because the content was removed from its original location by an administrator. Another potential cause is when there are errors in the website’s code and links which prevent browsers from locating a specific page when requested. If this is the case, then an HTTP 404 Error message will appear instead of displaying the intended page or resource.

How 404 errors impact SEO, UX and reputation

404 errors can have a significant impact on the SEO, UX and reputation of your website. When someone encounters a 404 error, it means that the page or resource they were trying to access could not be found. This type of experience can be very frustrating for visitors as it results in them getting stuck in a dead-end with no way forward. Not only does this lead to shortfall in potential sales and conversions but also negatively affects user experience (UX).

From the SEO perspective, 404 errors are seen as bad signals by search engine algorithms since they indicate that certain pages may not exist anymore which affects their ability to index properly. This can cause those pages — as well as any other linked from them — to drop significantly in rankings, if not disappear altogether from SERPs. As such, having too many 404 errors on your site will likely result in decreased traffic and visibility over time which further impacts reputation online.

Additionally, when people encounter numerous 404 errors while navigating through your website it has a poor impact on overall quality and reliability of the website; thus affecting how users perceive you and whether or not they would recommend you to others. All these factors combined make dealing with HTTP 404 errors crucial both for maintaining good user experience and protecting your website’s online image/reputation from harm caused by poor navigation experiences. It is therefore important that website owners regularly check for broken links/redirects so these issues don’t become pervasive across their entire domain.

How 404 errors are displayed

A 404 error occurs under these circumstances:

  • When a web page has been removed.
  • When a page has been redirected incorrectly.
  • Upon accessing a page that is currently undergoing edits.
  • Due to an incorrect URL.

The 404 error appears differently depending on the type of browser and device being used. On desktop browsers, it will typically display as a full-page error with text stating “Error 404: Not Found” or something similar. Mobile browsers may simply indicate that there was an issue loading the page, without giving any additional information about what kind of error occurred. It is also possible to set up custom pages for when users encounter 404 errors, which can provide them with more specific information about what happened and how they might be able to resolve the issue (such as providing links to other pages on your website).

How to identify 404 errors

One of the most important steps in identifying and dealing with 404 errors is to first determine what tools you will use to find them. There are a variety of options available including webmaster tools, online scanning services and browser extensions that can help you identify any links or pages on your website which have been broken or deleted without redirects being created for them. All these different solutions provide various levels of accuracy when it comes to tracking down 404 errors so it’s best to use multiple sources in order to be sure that nothing has been missed. Additionally, regular checks should be done as broken links can crop up from time-to-time due to changes made on other websites linking back yours; this could include page removals/moves and URL updates which lead visitors into dead ends when they click through from those sites.

Once all the identified issues have been resolved, it is important that steps are taken in order to prevent future 404 errors from occurring on your website. This means making sure URLs are properly formatted before publishing content, regularly checking external links leading into your domain and setting up automated monitoring systems which alert you whenever something goes wrong with related requests being sent out by browsers/visitors. You may also want to create custom error pages for each type of response code encountered; this not only makes the experience more pleasant but also gives users more information about what happened and how they might fix the issue (such as providing alternative paths).

How to fix the 404 not found error

Overall dealing with HTTP 404 errors may require a combination of approaches. Once you have identified the sources of your “404 not found” error, it is important to take steps in order to fix them. Depending on the cause of the issue, you may need to take some of the actions below

Find and fix broken links

These occur when a URL points to a page or resource that no longer exists. Broken links can happen for various reasons, such as changes in page structure or deleted content without proper redirection. To fix this issue, you will need to identify the broken links on your website and update them with the correct URLs or redirects.

Regularly update website’s plugins

Outdated versions of these elements can cause conflicts with other components of your site and lead to 404 errors. By keeping plugins up-to-date, you can prevent potential issues from arising.

Create error pages

These pages serve as placeholders when users encounter a broken link or unavailable page, providing information about what went wrong and offering suggestions for navigating back to the main site.

Implement 301 redirects

This involves setting up permanent redirects from old or broken URLs to new ones. By doing this, you can ensure that users who click on outdated links will be automatically directed to the correct page without encountering a 404 error.

Sometimes the problem can be deeper than that. Let's take a look at what may be the reason for the error, apart from the simple obvious cases:

File or page missing on the server

Make sure the file or page exists on the server. Log in to your hosting account or access your server's file system via FTP or a file manager provided by your hosting provider. Confirm that the requested file or page is present in the correct directory.

.htaccess сonfiguration

Incorrect configurations in the .htaccess file can lead to 404 errors. You can review your website's .htaccess file, which controls how URLs are processed and redirected. If there are any errors or misconfigurations in this file, it could result in 404 errors. You may also want to check with your web hosting provider to ensure that the server is functioning properly and that all necessary modules and extensions are installed.

Server сonfiguration

Ensure that your server's configuration allows access to the requested resource. Check file permissions and directory settings to ensure they're configured correctly.

If you've checked all the above and are still encountering the 404 error, consider reaching out to your hosting provider's support team. Any Scalesta plan includes qualified support with an SLA of 15 minutes. If you have any problems with hosting, write to us.

Remember, troubleshooting a 404 error might involve different steps based on your hosting environment, CMS, or website setup. If you're not confident about making changes to your server configuration, it's advisable to seek assistance from your hosting provider or a professional developer.

Scalesta is a team of professionals with experience in eCommerce project development since 2005. Sometimes additional tasks arise during migration processes.

For example, recently we have an interesting case on hosting. Client made a decision to migrate not just from another provider to Scalesta hosting but at the same time transfer their store from Magento to another platform. So we needed to move the website and close the old Magento-based store. To avoid the 404 Not Found error in that case we redirected the old store pages to the new ones. Our DevOps and SRE engineers set up redirects to allow the old links to connect to the same content of the new site and keep the website searchability.

Please contact us if you are searching for a reliable eCommerce hosting provider. Learn more about Scalesta hosting.

Custom 404 error page

Picture from Unspash, Erik Mclean

When creating a custom 404 error page, it is important to make sure that the content of the page matches what users were expecting when they clicked on the link. This means providing information about what went wrong and how they can resolve or bypass the issue. Additionally, you should also provide l suggestions which may help them find what they are looking for such as offering alternative paths through your website’s navigation structure or displaying search boxes with relevant queries already filled in.

You should also take into account SEO considerations when designing these custom 404 pages so that you don't inadvertently harm online rankings due to broken links being indexed by search engines like Google. Your goal here is to preserve any link mass coming from external sites linking back yours without any manual updates. So, if possible, use an HTTP 301 code rather than “404: Not Found” whenever redirecting traffic from deleted resources. This way bots know exactly where people should be taken instead.

Which tools to utilize for identifying these issues

As a website owner you strive to find the 404 error before users will do. You can use different tools starting from special plugins to analytics services. Let's consider the simplest and most popular ones:

Special services
Unable to locate your 404 error pages? Broken Link Checker can do the heavy lifting for you. Simply input your website, and it will reveal every instance of broken links, auditing up to 3,000 pages per scan.
Additionally, other resources like Ahrefs and Semrush can be used to detect and resolve broken links.

Analytics services
Google Search Console
and Google Analytics facilitate the identification of problematic URLs and provide guidance on how to resolve them.

Errors similar to error 404

When dealing with errors like error 404, it is important to understand that there are other types of HTTP status codes which closely resemble the “Not Found” response. This could include things such as 403 Forbidden (which occurs when a server has blocked access to certain resources from specific users) or 502 Bad Gateway error (which happens when an intermediary server between a website and visitor cannot reach its intended target). All these responses indicate that something went wrong while trying to retrieve information requested by browsers/visitors but to varying degrees — while some may offer alternative paths for visitors others might require technical expertise in order to be resolved.

Another issue similar to error 404 is 301 Moved Permanently. This indicates that the requested resource has been moved permanently from its original location and any future requests should use the new URL provided in the response header. It is important for webmasters/administrators to ensure redirects have been set up properly here since search engines rely on them heavily — incorrect implementations can lead to broken links being indexed which then negatively impact SEO ranking over time..

Finally, 410 Gone messages also crop up from time-to-time due content having been completely removed without replacements being created. This usually happens when people want to get rid of a page completely or simply don’t have enough space available on their servers for storing everything online. In both cases visitors will receive this response code if they try accessing something no longer present within those domains. While not as serious as other issues described above, it still needs to be addressed since many people may click through expecting actual content instead of getting stuck looking at generic errors screen without any further context about why they couldn't view what they wanted initially.

Overall understanding how different types of HTTP status codes work and how each one affects user experience significantly helps webmasters create better experiences all around while mitigating potential damages caused by prolonged exposure issues such as decreased rankings due incorrect redirects.


In conclusion, it is important to understand how HTTP 404 errors and other status codes can affect user experience and SEO rankings when navigating through a website. Correctly setting up custom pages for each response code encountered along with regularly checking for broken links/redirects within the domain, as well as plugin updates and proper hosting configuration are key steps in dealing with these issues efficiently. Additionally, making sure URLs are properly formatted before publishing content online and implementing automated monitoring solutions to detect abnormalities quickly should also be considered as part of any long-term strategy. Finally, considering accessibility requirements when creating personalized error pages ensures that even those who rely on tools such as screen readers aren't left behind trying to figure out what happened after encountering an unexpected issue during their browsing session.

Error 404 FAQs

Should I create a separate page for the 404 error?

Having a separate page dedicated to this error can be beneficial as it helps users find what they’re looking for if they have encountered an issue. Depending on your content management system (CMS), you might be able to create a custom page specifically for these types of errors. Additionally, you can utilize 301 redirects in order to send visitors from the broken URL with 404 errors back to pages related to their original search query. This will help keep them engaged and prevent them from leaving due to the broken link.

How to monitor 404 errors via Google Search Console?

You have the option to monitor 404 errors detected by Google's crawlers through Google Search Console. After verifying your site with Google Search Console, navigate to Crawl → Crawl Errors → Not found to access a compilation of 404 errors encountered by Google.

This method stands out as one of the simplest approaches. Additionally, it excels in terms of efficiency as it doesn't necessitate third-party plugins or supplementary scans on your website.

Broken links refer to hyperlinks that point to web pages, images, documents, or other resources that no longer exist or cannot be accessed. When a user clicks on a broken link, it results in a "404 Not Found" error or a similar message indicating that the intended content or page is unavailable.

Page deletion or removal: if a web page is deleted or removed without proper redirection, any links pointing to that page become broken.

Changes in URL structure: modifications in a website's URL structure might render previously linked pages inaccessible.

Content relocation: when content is relocated within a website or to a different domain without implementing proper redirects, links to the old location become broken.

Typos or mistakes: human errors in manually typing or inputting URLs can result in broken links.

Broken links negatively impact user experience and can also affect a website's search engine ranking. Regularly checking for and fixing broken links is essential to ensure a seamless browsing experience for users and to maintain the health and integrity of a website.