More on 404

Friday, August 15, 2008

Now that we've bid farewell to soft 404s, in this post for 404 week we'll answer your burning 404 questions.

How do you treat the response code 410 "Gone"? Just like a 404.

Do you index content or follow links from a page with a 404 response code?

We aim to understand as much as possible about your site and its content. So while we wouldn't want to show a hard 404 to users in search results, we may utilize a 404's content or links if it's detected as a signal to help us better understand your site.

Keep in mind that if you want links crawled or content indexed, it's far more beneficial to include them in a non-404 page.

What about 404s with a 10-second meta refresh?

Yahoo! currently utilizes this method on their 404s. They respond with a 404, but the 404 content also shows: <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="10;url=" /> We feel this technique is fine because it reduces confusion by giving users 10 seconds to make a new selection, only offering the homepage after 10 seconds without the user's input.

Should I 301-redirect misspelled 404s to the correct URL?

Redirecting/301-ing 404s is a good idea when it's helpful to users (that is, not confusing like soft 404s). For instance, if you notice that the Crawl Errors of Webmaster Tools shows a 404 for a misspelled version of your URL, you can 301 the misspelled version of the URL to the correct version.

For example, if we saw this 404 in Crawl Errors: <-- typo for "webmasters"

we may first correct the typo if it exists on our own site, then 301 the URL to the correct version (as the broken link may occur elsewhere on the web):

Have you guys seen any good 404s?

Yes, we have! (Confession: no one asked us this question, but few things are as fun to discuss as response codes. :) We've put together a list of some of our favorite 404 pages. If you have more 404-related questions, let us know, and thanks for joining us for 404 week! "If you're looking for an item that's no longer stocked (as I was), this makes it really easy to find an alternative."
- Riona, domestigeek "Blame the robot monkeys"
- Reid, tells really bad jokes "Boost your 'Time on site' metrics with a 404 page like this."
- Susan, dabbler in music and Analytics "It's not reassuring, but it's definitive."
- Jonathan, has trained actual spiders to build websites, ants handle the 404s "Good with respect to usability." "At least there's a mailbox."
- JohnMu, adventurous "It's pretty cute. :)"
- Jessica, likes cute things "Flow charts rule."
- Sahala, internet traveller "I can has useful links and even e-mail address for questions! But they could have added 'OH NOES! IZ MISSING PAGE! MAYBE TIPO OR BROKN LINKZ?' so folks'd know what's up."
- Adam, lindy hop geek