Columbus, Ohio SEO Expert | Jacob Stoops

Removing 404-Errors from Google’s Index

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Everyone has seen them, and it is likely that nearly every webmaster has experienced the dreaded 404-Error page. These pages often result from moving to a new URL without making sure any redirection is specified for the old URL (which stays in the SERPs).

If your domain has too many 404 Errors floating around in the search engines a few things may happen:

  1. Your site’s reputation may be hurt.
  2. Your site’s rankings may suffer.
  3. Your site may be penalized.
  4. Your site may be banned from the index.

As you see, a 404-Error page is truly a sick-and-twisted killer of SEO campaigns. It is likely that this SEO Serial Killer has compiled an SEO Campaign death toll in the 1,000,000s. Therefore, they must be stopped!!!

However, before I send you on your mission to assassinate any and all of your domain’s 404-Errors, you must first understand your enemy…

Your Enemy: The 404-Error Defined!

The 404 or Not Found error message is an HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with the server but either the server could not find what was requested, or it was configured not to fulfill the request and did not reveal the reason why.

404-Errors should not be confused with “server not found” or similar errors, in which a connection to the destination server could not be made at all.

Your Mission: Remove 404 Pages from Google’s Index.

Your mission is to kill all 404-Error pages to your site. Despite how ominous of a task this might seem, removing a 404-Error page is actually very easy.

Step #1: Set Up In Google Webmaster Tools

To start the process, make sure you’re site is being tracked in Google Webmaster Tools so that it can report back any potential site quality issues (such as the 404 pages we’re hunting). Tracking can be established via the use of a META Tag that is given to each site in the Webmaster account.

For instance, mine looks like this:

<meta name=”verify-v1″ content=”SbDlTEjInWXA54QebUqMZ7C/TONz0IHeI//vEkp9YVE=” />

Step #2: Finding Your 404-Error Pages

Once you’ve entered your site in Google Webmaster and verified, you will be able to see a high-level overview of your site’s diagnostics via the admin panel.

Removing 404-Errors from Google's Index

From there, you will be able to see your ‘Not Found’ link details. If you click the ‘details’ link, you will see a comprehensive list of your site’s current 404-Error pages. Hint: Copy and paste all the URLs into a Word Doc for quick access.

Remove 404-Errors Using Google Webmaster Tools

Step #3: Killing Your 404-Error Pages

Now that you’ve found your site’s current 404-Error pages, it’s time to kill them. To do this, we need to submit them for removal from Google’s Index. To do that click ‘Tool’ and then use the ‘Remove URL’ Tool.

Click ‘New Removal Request’ and you will then be given 4 options:

  1. Individual URLs: web pages, images, or other files.
  2. A directory and all subdirectories on your site.
  3. Your entire site Remove your site from appearing in Google search results.
  4. Cached copy of a Google search result

For our purposes, select the first option. From here, you will be able to submit a URL for removal.

Kill 404-Errors Pages

Copy and paste in the relative URL path of your 404-Error page and click ‘Add’. Repeat this process until all of your 404-Error pages have been added to your list of URLs to remove. Once you’ve completed you list, be sure to hit ‘Submit Removal Request’.

Hint: You can remove a maximum of 100 page per request, and requests usually take 3-5 days to process. Be sure to monitor the progress as this tool can be buggy.

Step #4: Consider Other Options

If you still have access on your server to the old URLs that may be causing 404 errors, it would be a sound strategy to put a 301-Redirect in place.

That way, whenever a user finds the page in the SERPs, they will automatically be redirected to a working page. It’s up to you which page to redirect them to. With time, the new URL will replace the old one in the SERPs.

In addition, it is also a good idea to create custom 404 pages. This will make sure a user doesn’t feel lost when he or she finds a 404-Error page, it may promote interactivity with the site even though a user has every right to simply leave, and it may give them a way out via links back to relevant pages on your site.

Hope this helps…

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Removing 404-Errors from Google's Index, 3.3 out of 5 based on 15 ratings

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Jacob Stoops

About the Author

is an SEO professional living in Columbus, Ohio and working for Rosetta Marketing. He's been working in the SEO industry since 2006, and has been blogging since 2009. Learn more about , a Columbus, Ohio SEO Expert.

Comments & Social Reactions

  • http://www.jwrmedia.com JWRmedia

    Thanks for that info. Its something I never noticed before. As that will work for Google, I feel it’s also a good idea to have a custom error page so your visitors don’t run into a dead end either.

    I usually don’t plug my links, but in this case I feel it’s relevant. These are the instructions on how to make a custom 404 error page on your site:

    http://www.jwrmedia.com/lessons/htaccess/custom-error-pages

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  • http://kampanyedamaipemiluindonesia2009.bemyfriends.com kampanye damai pemilu Indonesia 2009

    Very nice information. Thanks for share.Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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  • http://www.zoopmedia.com Justin Wright

    Hmm this is something I often forget about. 404 Pages are definitely the enemy. It’s also important to create a 404 page that is actually useful. That way if for some reason a person does happen to find one, at lease it gives the readers a little more info.

    I’ve found that putting an archives page below the 404 message has helped readers find some posts. But I agree, not having any broken links is the best way to go.

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  • http://www.mp3traker.com mp3traker

    Once I found your bloog from Google. I’m reading your post several times because it introduces a fresh idea for my business.

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  • http://automotivefloorjacks.multiply.com/ floor jacks

    It’s the first time I commented here and I must say you give us genuine, and quality information for bloggers! Great job.
    p.s. You have an awesome template . Where did you find it?

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  • http://agent-seo.com/ Jacob Stoops

    Thanks! I actually built it myself from scratch. I would like to redesign it though sometime soon…

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  • http://www.jjhill.org M

    Most bots know when they receive a 404 message, that they shouldn’t return. If you use a custom 404 error page, how do you still communicate to the bot (live, Yanga, MSNBOT, Google, etc) that the page is an error page and that it shouldn’t continue to return it in search resultsets.

    Is it in the header…the …the , keywords, etc

    So, to restate the question: If I use a custom 404 error page, how does Google know that it is in fact an error page?

    Thanks!
    M

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    • http://agent-seo.com/ Jacob Stoops

      Like you said, the bots know its an error page. The reason it is wise to use a custom 404 page is more for the user. Most users wont return to your site if they are sent to a 404 page. By creating a custom 404 page with a friendly design and maybe some options to help them naviagate back through your site, you are increasing the likelyhood that they will trust and return to your site (despite the error this time).

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  • http://imheadlines.com Johnny

    Thanks a lot for sharing this awesome information. I moved my entire blog database to the top level domain & was facing these problems. Now I know how to remove them from google’s index. And hopefully it, will index the new urls soon enough.

    Cheers,
    Johnny

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  • http://www.infopakistan.pk K. Shahzad

    I already had the custom 404 page but didn’t liked my visitors coming to the wrong page, so wanted to get those pages removed from Google index.

    One thing by removing these pages do we telling search engine to never index this page again or Page does not exist so remove it?

    This may be the possibility that we add same page again to the site in future, so that must be re-index-able.

    At the moment info provided within this post will work extremely great for me as i was desperately in need to remove few of my 404 pages from Google index, which were actually hurting my site’s rank.

    Keep the provision of good info up!

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  • fantoosh

    we can redirect 404 error page to home page :)

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  • TSP

    Thank you for posting the information about E404 errors. I have a couple and now know how to get rid of them! I am quite new to SEO and find ALL your blogs / articles extremely useful. Thank you again

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    • jacobstoops

      No problem. Actually, since I wrote that article, Google Webmaster Tools has changed their formatting a bit. Once you sign in, you must now go to 'Site Settings', then click 'Crawler Access', and then open up the 'Remove URL' tab…from there you should be able to make a removal request.

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  • http://www.hanaptayo.com/ Hanaptayo

    sir, i have more than 10,000 404 error page, what should i do? its very hard to add in removal tool, it happen because i overhaul my website http://www.hanaptayo.com. can i use wild card? example
    http://www.hanaptayo.com/classifiedads/* thnxz in advance

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  • http://www.hanaptayo.com Hanaptayo

    thanks! now google reindex my website, but my PR still 0, but for now its ok, i have regular visitor which i think it is much important than serp… thanxz agent-seo

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  • Prof_fsg

    This is extremely very good. Now my 404 pages are gradually removed by google

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  • http://www.seoxcell.com/ SEO Company

    I know sometimes the Google webmaster tools shows the direction 404 that have already installed and added to the tail of eradication. In that case, you can re-build the sitemap.xml file and wait patiently when Googlebot crawl errors and updates the data fresh and updated. It should not take more than a week

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