How website errors affect search engine rankings

Website ranking is for many, one of the most critically important aspects of their online business. Apart from the information websites provide, staying in business actually depend on how much traffic and conversion a website can get.There are several errors a website can generate. The most common of them is the 404 error. And we will dwell a little more on the 404 error and other errors. We will discuss how these errors can be fixed and how they affect search engine rankings.

According to Google 404 errors are normal errors and they do not affect rankings on their SERPs. Google specifically in a response to a question on this said:

404s are a perfectly normal part of the web; the Internet is always changing, new content is born, old content dies, and when it dies it (ideally) returns a 404 HTTP response code. Search engines are aware of this; we have 404 errors on our own sites, as you can see above, and we find them all over the web. In fact, we actually prefer that, when you get rid of a page on your site, you make sure that it returns a proper 404 or 410 response code (rather than a soft 404). Keep in mind that in order for our crawler to see the HTTP response code of a URL, it has to be able to crawl that URL - if the URL is blocked by your robots.txt file we won't be able to crawl it and see its response code. The fact that some URLs on your site no longer exist / return 404s does not affect how your site's other URLs (the ones that return 200 (Successful)) perform in our search results.

When Google makes a comment, you take it and work with it without bothering anymore what anyone could want to say. Google's opinion is the alpha and omega of search engines. This statement was made in 2011 and Google has not made a new comment o warrant a change in opinion.

Also read:

7 SEO Tips That Will Help Your Website Rankings, Yet Are Not Often Talked About

5 Easy On--Page SEO Tips That Yield Big Results

Why SEO keeps changing the way it works

However, following recent changes to the Google Algorithm and with greater emphasis on user experience, one is persuaded to think that 404 errors can affect user experience and this could have some impact on bounce rate and ranking as well.

Consider this scenario, someone makes a search for fast and reliable web hosting in Nigeria and finds your post made some two tears ago. Let's assume you have moved the content to another category without properly redirecting to the new page. The result gives the user a 404 error and he leaves your page. If this happens to other pages you have moved in a similar way, your bounce rate will likely increase and Google will spot this trend. Google will definitely not want to reward you with higher rank given your high bounce rate.

So, it is doubtful that if your website returns a lot of 404 errors, these comments will still hold true in your case. So, you need to worry about lots of error pages on your website. Though it is not a factor that Google uses to reward or rank a website, it could indirectly have some effect on your website.

Also read:

The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO

Expert Tips That Will Guarantee Good Traffic to Your Website

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Remember that no one actually knows how Google or any other search engine ranks. Our guesses are only based on the information released to us. There are several reasons to believe that website errors can affect search engine ranking. The bottom line is that Google is increasingly focusing on user experience and will rank a website favourably for its user-friendliness. User experience will including mobile friendliness, un-broken links, navigational elements and friendly urls.

It has also been well established that Google does not like broken links - which is one of the reason for errors.

The idea here is that if your website contains lots of broken links, it will also report poor user experience. What that means is that with Google's increasing focus on user experience, your website will get poor ranking as a result.

Our recommendation is that despite all the assurances not to so much bother about website errors, it will be wise to be properly guided to avoid errors as they affect your users and can actually lead to high bounce rate and a blacklist by users.

Also read: How to Fix Website Bounce Rate Problems

Now we will need to look at some of the most common errors and how to cope with them.

500 Internal Server Error

The 500 Internal Server Error is a very general HTTP status code that means something has gone wrong on the web site's server, but the server could not be more specific on what the exact problem is. Most of the time, "Opss" means an issue with the page, .htaccess file or extension code quality.

Resolution

Wait at least 30-60 seconds and reload the web page. You can do that by clicking the refresh/reload button, pressing F5, or trying the URL again from the address bar. The issue may only be temporary. Trying the page again will often be successful.
Clear your browser cache and stored cookies. If there's a problem with the cached version of the page you're viewing, it could be causing HTTP 500 issues.
If your script uses a .htaccess file, rename .htaccess back to htaccess.txt - maybe one of rule inside is not acceptable by your server settings.
Remember what extension you lastly installed or published, if you have access to back-end, just turn it off (disable) and remove link from Menu.
If all those tips won't help, contacting the server support directly is your last option.

Also read: What is an SEO Audit, and How Can It Help Your Business?

504 Gateway Timeout Error

The 504 Gateway Timeout error is an HTTP status code that means that one server did not receive a timely response from another server that it was accessing while attempting to load the page or request by the browser. Most of the time, this means that the other server is down or not working properly. Relax and check website later. Unfortunately, at this point, that this error is no doubt a problem outside your control that will eventually get fixed by server admin only.

404 Not Found Error

A 404 error is an HTTP status code that means that the page you were trying to reach on a website couldn't be found in the database or on their server. Technically, an Error 404 is a client-side error, implying that the error is your mistake, either because you used wrong URL alias (a spelling error or typo). Another possibility is if the page (menu item link) has been renamed or trashed/disabled from the website and in theory you should have known. Check in Menu Module if menu item link is still there and published, also if link (the URL) used in Custom HTML module or article was typed wrong or the link that was clicked on points to the wrong target URL. It's good habit to check and fix those errors regularly.

Also read: Website Cloaking: What The Search Engines Allow and Disallow

If your website is built on a script or content management system, after installation of some extensions you might have experienced an error that occurs when PHP on their server is set to strict error reporting - where they receive error messages starting with phrases: Strict Standards: Non-static method help on line XX. Essentially, Strict Standards warnings are not really errors; they're messages designed for developers, but I fully agree they do not like nice on working site.

create php.ini file and then inside put following code:

error_reporting = E_ALL ~E_NOTICE  ~E_WARNING  ~E_STRICT  ~E_DEPRECATED

Blank Page

The white screen may it be one of those extremely annoying problems like error establishing a database connection. It can be caused by everything from damaged extension or outdated installed and published plugin. But what is irritating is you do not see what is going on, because there wasn't any warning message at all you are left clueless to figure out what is the issue.

You will need to enable error reporting on your website. These may be able to help you determine the root cause. Note! Default error reporting is not good for each case because it's visible to everyone, including your users. That's why it is good to look for a plugin that can do this for you. A plugin changes the error reporting level depending on the selected user groups, so for example only only admins will see errors on their pages, but other users won't.

Read also: How to Fix The WordPress White Screen of Death

What is helpful in most cases the application displays a blank page due to a corrupted (not core) plugin that is currently active for the site, so check them all, disable - enable one by one to check which one is a problem. If you suspect the problem is other extension related, you can try uninstalling any component or module you recently installed. After the problematic plugin is found check whether it is compatible with your version of software. If you plan to use it contact the extension's developer and report the issue.

Also read: Best Practices for Managing 404 Error Pages

Missing image(s) or graphic icons

Technically, in most cases the error is your mistake, either because you typed the URL in wrong or the image has been moved to another folder or or maybe renamed or even removed from the website and you should have known. Check source URL using built-in browser detector or use Firebug.

My home page has changed

Extensions from suspicious websites can contain malicious code that hijacks your website and changes the appearance or settings. So your home page for example is changed to another website that you can't then change back. Or you may see annoying pop-up messages with advertisements for products you've never asked for are constantly displayed on every subpage. First step, please remember what it might have been, uninstall crappy software and then scan your site using Security Component or Online Anti-virus tools. If those steps won't help or your site was hacked, probably you have to recover site from back-up.

Hope this post helped. Lets have your comments on the comment box below.

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