How a 404 Page Can Hurt Your SEO

We have all experienced them when browsing or searching, but do 404 – “four-oh-four” in geek speak – affect SEO? It all depends on the 404 message returned, but most of these categories do not directly influence SEO. One thing all 404’s share in common however, is their ability to frustrate and permanently turn away what may have been genuine interest from your visitor. Moreover, they can hurt your link equity over time. One type of 404 page error will affect your search rankings and traffic.

Defining a 404 Page Error

What leads to a 404 message? This is simply the response code returned by the server when it cannot locate a matching Uniform Resource Informer (URI). It is the server’s way of informing a browser that it could not find the content. Assuming your website means something for your business, you should schedule time to do regular maintenance on it.

404 Variations

External 404s – These occur when a visitor attempts to link to a broken page on your site. Often, the content has been removed by the owner for good reason, but sometimes a third party may be linking improperly.

Outgoing 404s – These arise when a link from your site to another site breaks with a resultant 404 page error message. Often times old links seem to evaporate, so this occurrence is quite common.

Internal 404s – According to some of the experts, removing known internal 404 page errors has a positive effect on rankings. The converse is true if they remain undetected.

Phantom 404s – Some proxy servers are known to generate a 404 page error when the remote host is absent. In reality, a 500-range code should result when errors such as hostname resolution failures, or refused TCP connections prevent the proxy server from addressing the request.

Detection Issues

There are web tools around that crawl websites and throw up unwanted 404 status codes. These tools can prove useful in detecting links that exist on a particular web page. If you are serious about website maintenance, you might want to find 404s before search engines encounter them.

In that case, populating your site with a tool such as SEMrush or MOZ should provide useful insights. Designed to behave just like search engine spiders, these tools will help in the detection process.

Fixing 404 Page Errors

Identifying 404 page errors is one thing, but it is also a good idea to fix them if we want our search rankings to remain onside with Google and other search engines. Once you know what caused the error, the solution is waiting out there for you. Naturally, the easiest option is to contact your webmaster and have them find and fix the problems.

Creating redirects makes sense because those search engines will continue to hit affected URLs until the fixes are in place. Fixing 404s will ensure a top quality site for your visitors and will please hard-working search engines too.

The Essential Elements of Modern Web Design

Web design is constantly evolving: what was once limited by hard-coded, static HTML has now grown into a dynamic entity that literally drives businesses today. Web design trends continue to go in and out of vogue; with some trends slowly edging their way out (we’re looking at you parallax scrolling), while some older trends are either reinvented or repurposed.

Today, web design has taken on a much wider perspective: brand identity. Businesses today are using web design to tell their story: through colors, typography, imagery and even, functional elements of the website. Though it’s not readily apparent, good web design DOES influence customer trust. In fact, a recent survey by Kinesis revealed that 75% of customers based a company’s credibility on its website and a staggering 94% of users said that a website’s design contributed to first impressions of a business.

We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on what a poorly designed website could mean for your conversion rates.

So, here are 7 crucial elements of modern web design and why they are necessary to ensure that your customers have the best experience while on your site.


Easy and seamless navigation is critical to any good web experience: you do not want your visitors to get lost in your website. Breadcrumb navigation, which derives from what Hansel and Gretel did to find their way back home, does just that: allows visitors to track their way around your website. It provides them with context about their current location in the site, i.e. where they are right now in relation to the rest of the site and where they can go from there.

They don’t disrupt the design in any way and their purpose is immediately obvious to anyone who uses your site. Breadcrumbs are also good for your SEO: In 2015, Google started replacing the site URLs in their SERPs with breadcrumbs.

Calls to Action:

Calls-to-action are a crucial design element that drives user actions and conversions. On most websites, they are usually clickable buttons that encourage users to take an action – like a sign up, download, or purchase – that will eventually lead to an effective conversion. Their effectiveness hinges on their design: they should draw the user’s attention either with their size, color or positioning, without being disruptive to a user’s experience on your website. HubSpot has a list of excellent uses of calls to action that have been used effectively to drive positive customer action and conversions.


Fonts and typography have long been used as brand identifiers, and with the influx of web fonts, brands are finding numerous ways to incorporate typography into their brand identity. The fonts you choose to represent your brand can say a lot about who you are and what your values are.

Today, a number of websites are using large fonts to great effect by highlighting the most crucial information in bold, big fonts, and surrounding it by whitespace or faded backgrounds to make their text stand out: like Spotify’s Out Of Office Email Builder and others.

Cinemagraphs and Background Videos:

Cinemagraphs are high-quality GIFs or videos that run as a background to add visual oomph to static and single page designs. They generate a visceral interest in the brand and create a sense of action, holding the user’s attention. See how Comedy Central does it with a clip of their latest comedy show.

Some businesses use cinemagraphs to give users a peek behind-the-scenes: showing the business in action shows the customers that there are real people behind the brand, which goes a long way in building customer trust.

Hamburger Menus:

When you have a long menu with a large number of sub-menus, your top menu can become quite crowded and take up a lot of screen-space. The hamburger menu – or the hidden menu – takes care of this by minimizing the navigation menu to the hamburger icon.

Hamburger menu

By minimizing the navigation to the hamburger menu, you can actually increase conversions, especially on sign-up pages. With a minimized navigation, there are fewer distractions for users to click away from a page. At the same time, the navigation menu is still within their reach once they have completed the form. For more statistics, check out the UX Movement study titled “How Hamburger Menus Can Increase Your Conversion Rate”

Search Boxes:

If your website is content-heavy, then a search box should definitely be a part of your website design. Like with most design elements, the purpose of search element should be conveyed clearly.

Today, most websites indicate the search field with a simple “magnifying glass” icon in the corner like the Comedy Central Website does. Clicking on the icon opens a modal search function that takes over the entire screen. On the other hand, some websites like HubSpot have an inline search form slide out when the icon is clicked. That is not to say that the classic search box in the corner is out: Wikipedia still uses it quite successfully.

404 Pages:

An oft-overlooked design element, 404 pages can be conversion killers if not implemented properly: when hit with a default 404 page, customers are left with no choice other than to leave your website (and possibly never return), and you lose a valuable opportunity for conversion. However, with custom 404 pages, you can make the user stay on your website by engaging them through the page: either by presenting them with relevant information on how to find what they’re looking for like HubSpot does with theirs or using humor to convey your apology like Airbnb and GitHub do.

Your 404 page should have the same branding and design as the rest of your website, to give users the impression that they’re still within the bounds of your own website. See how Lego’s 404 page ( uses their brand identity to convey the message.

Since a website is a business’ primary marketing tool, its design should be oriented towards providing prospective customers with a positive first impression of its values and its brand identity. Therefore, every single element in your website’s design needs to be given its due consideration: a single misstep in an element’s design can impact your conversions adversely.