Understanding 404 Errors in WordPress: A Complete Guide

404 Errors in WordPress

Have you ever encountered an error page while browsing a website? Chances are, you have. Error pages, such as 404 errors, can be frustrating for both website visitors and website owners. In this article, we’ll dive into the difference between 404 and soft 404 errors, the impact they can have on your website, and most importantly, how to fix them in WordPress.

What are 404 Errors?

404 errors, also known as “Page Not Found” errors, occur when a user requests a page that cannot be found on the server. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • The page has been deleted or moved
  • The URL was typed incorrectly
  • The link on another website is outdated

When a 404 error occurs, the server sends a response code of 404 to the browser, indicating that the requested page cannot be found. This response code can be customized to display a custom error page, but most often, a default 404 error page is displayed by the server.

What are Soft 404 Errors?

Soft 404 errors, on the other hand, are errors that occur when a page returns a 200 OK status code but the content of the page doesn’t match the expected content. This can happen for several reasons, including:

  • The page content is too similar to the content of other pages on the website
  • The page content is only a few words or a placeholder
  • The page is a redirect to another page

Soft 404 errors can be problematic because search engines, such as Google, may index the page as a valid page, even though it doesn’t provide any value to the user. This can result in poor user experience and decreased search engine rankings.

The Impact of 404 and Soft 404 Errors on Your Website

Both 404 and soft 404 errors can have a negative impact on your website in several ways:

  • Decreased user experience: When users encounter an error page, they may become frustrated and leave the website, potentially never to return.
  • Decreased search engine rankings: Search engines take user experience into account when ranking websites. If your website has a high number of error pages, search engines may view it as low-quality and penalize your website’s rankings.
  • Loss of traffic: When a page returns a 404 error, any links pointing to that page will no longer work, resulting in a loss of traffic from those links.

How to Fix 404 and Soft 404 Errors in WordPress

Fortunately, fixing 404 and soft 404 errors in WordPress is relatively straightforward. There are several plugins available that can help you identify and fix errors, including:

  1. Broken Link Checker: This plugin will scan your website for broken links and alert you to any 404 errors. You can then either delete the broken link or update it to a working URL.
  2. Redirection: This plugin allows you to create redirects from old URLs to new ones, helping to prevent 404 errors from occurring. I suggest to use this plugin: Redirect 404 to 301 Plugin
  3. Yoast SEO: This popular SEO plugin includes a feature that allows you to monitor your website for 404 errors and create redirects to fix them.

Once you’ve identified the 404 or soft 404 errors on your website, you can take the following steps to fix them:

  1. Delete the page: If the page is no longer needed or relevant, simply delete it.
  2. Update the URL: If the URL was typed incorrectly or the page has been moved, update the URL to the correct one.
  3. Create a redirect: If the page has been moved to a new URL, create a redirect from the old URL to the new URL. This will ensure that users and search engines are directed to the correct page and prevent 404 errors from occurring.
  4. Improve the content: If the page is a soft 404 error, consider improving the content on the page to provide value to users and search engines. It’s important to regularly check your website for 404 and soft 404 errors and take action to fix them. This will help to ensure a positive user experience and improve your website’s search engine rankings.

FAQs about 404 Errors in WordPress

Can 404 errors harm my SEO?

Yes, 404 errors can harm your SEO by creating broken links on your website, which can negatively impact your website’s user experience and search engine ranking.

Can I fix 404 errors on my own?

Yes, you can fix 404 errors on your own by using tools like Google Search Console, WordPress plugins, and server logs to identify and resolve the issue.

Are there any best practices for avoiding 404 errors in WordPress?

Yes, there are several best practices for avoiding 404 errors in WordPress, including regularly checking for broken links, updating permalinks when necessary, and being cautious when deactivating and deleting plugins.


In conclusion, 404 and soft 404 errors can have a significant impact on your website’s user experience and search engine rankings. By regularly monitoring your website for errors and taking steps to fix them, you can ensure that your website is providing a positive experience for users and performing well in search engine results. Whether you use a plugin or take manual steps, fixing 404 and soft 404 errors is an important part of maintaining a high-quality website.



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