Organic SEO

Custom 404 Pages Have Little SEO Benefit

Custom 404 Pages Have Little SEO Benefit
The SEM Post reported this week on an interesting revelation from Google’s Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout: Google does not crawl the content of custom 404 pages on sites. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said that:

“So if we see a 404, then we see a 404 and don’t look at the content.  We don’t look to see what is visible on your 404 pages, on your server error pages, we essentially assume that something that the user can look at and kind of deal with, we don’t follow the content on pages that return any of these error response codes.”

This might come as a blow to some web developers who use a custom 404 page for SEO purposes, but custom 404 pages are still helpful from a user perspective, as they can help reorient lost users to the right part of the site.

The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines recommend giving well-thought-out 404 pages the highest quality rating; they just don’t contribute directly to SEO.