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404 Error Page Or 301 Redirect To Homepage?

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4 replies to this topic

#1 VetoFunk


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Posted 30 September 2012 - 05:53 PM

Hey Everyone,

I have went through a client's site during a move (new site, not new domain) and redirected the top 200 landing pages to corresponding webpages on the new site site. The question is with the other 1,000+ pages on their website. These are not nearly as popular, and it would cost a lot to do the same with these. Is it better to do a 404 error page on these or a 301 redirect to the homepage?

We were thinking about doing a custom 404, which via javascript would redirect people to the homepage after 5 seconds. This was an idea by the developer though. I have just read this from Google where they don't recommend 301 redirecting all pages to the new site's homepage:

Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. This tells search engines and users that your site has permanently moved. We recommend that you move and redirect a section or directory first, and then test to make sure that your redirects are working correctly before moving all your content.

Don't do a single redirect directing all traffic from your old site to your new home page. This will avoid 404 errors, but it's not a good user experience. It's more work, but a page-to-page redirect will help preserve your site's ranking in Google while providing a consistent and transparent experience for your users. If there won't be a 1:1 match between pages on your old site and your new site (recommended), try to make sure that every page on your old site is at least redirected to a new page with similar content.

#2 Tiggerito


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Posted 30 September 2012 - 10:51 PM

The key term is "all pages". It's fine to 301 redirect selected pages but don't do it for any URL that does not exist. This can cause issues with search engines and confuse users.

Think about the users experience when deciding to redirect to the home page. Would a 404 page that provides suggestions and help be better than the home page? Or even a category page related to the subject they were expecting?

#3 VetoFunk


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Posted 01 October 2012 - 10:13 AM

So you are recommending a custom 404 page then. I can see your point from a user standpoint, I guess from an SEO standpoint, the 404 won't push any possible link juice to the homepage, but instead it will be lost...but I would rather have the sale.

#4 Jill


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Posted 01 October 2012 - 12:24 PM

You definitely do not want to redirect 404's to your home page.

#5 Mikl


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Posted 04 October 2012 - 06:46 AM

From the visitor's point of view, redirecting a 404 to the home page is pretty useless. If the original page no longer exists, the visitor needs to know that. By all means, let them choose to go to the home page (or a sitemap, or a search page, or whatever), but first let them know that the original page is no longer available.

Showing the custom error page for five seconds is not a great option either. Visitors will be understandably annoyed if they are half-way through reading an explanation of the error, and then the page suddenly changes with no action on their part.

Also, if they originally reached the error page because they mis-typed the URL, it would be polite to keep them on the error page, as that would show the mis-typed URL in the address bar, and they could then edit it if they wished.

In short, do a simple custom 404 error page, and leave it at that.


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