Question: Is it a good idea to have a custom 404 error page?
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Answer: There are two distinctions here. Custom 404’s are where you manipulate your web server to make a custom message when someone hits a 404 / not found error. This is usually done for branding purposes or to direct the searcher to other alternatives and hopefully not have them lose interest.
Related to this, however, is what is called a ‘Soft 404.’ A ‘Soft 404’ is in a sense a ‘real’ page and not a true 404. So it can confuse Google. Is the page really 404, or is it not 404? Here is a link to a Google article about ‘soft 404.’s’
They also have a link to “Fetch as Google” to verify that your ‘404’ isn’t a soft 404.
So a custom 404 can be a TRUE 404 (GOOD) or a SOFT 404 (BAD). You want to test to make sure.
Got a question? Click this link to email Jason or call 888-993-1122. Dr. Jason McDonald is founder and Senior SEO / Social Media Director of the JM Internet Group. He teaches the SEO training classes for the group, and therefore provides most of the SEO tips for this blog. His goal with this blog is to provide an easy 'one-stop shop' for the busy marketer looking for tips, tricks, and secrets on how to get to the top of Google and Bing for free using proven SEO tactics. When not dreaming up SEO tips, Dr. McDonald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two dogs, a cat, four iguanas and twelve children (just kidding). Really you read down to the bio on this guy? Enjoy the blog.
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