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There may be many reasons you and your store visitors are getting 404 errors for your store. While there’s no way you can stop those errors to happen, you can certainly fix them. But, before we jump to the solution, here are some important things to know.
What does ‘404 Page Not Found’ error mean?
404 error basically means that the page you are trying to load is not there on the server and thus server sends the response “404 Page Not Found”.
When do you get 404 error for Shopify store?
- If you earlier had any products/collections/pages which were indexed in Google and other search engines but now those product/collections/pages doesn’t exist anymore. You may have deleted those or changed the URL.
- If you have misspelt or typed the wrong path after the domain name, then also you will get the 404 error.
Why the 404 errors are harmful?
- Google regularly crawl the pages which are already indexed. Now, if for some reason the page is no more there on the URL then Google get 404 error. This hurts your SEO effort as Google hates crawling URLs where there is no content.
- When a visitor lands on a 404 page, she may immediately leave your website and you end up losing a potential customer.
How to detect 404 errors
For your Shopify store, the most harmful 404 errors are those coming from Google. Because those errors directly hurt your SEO.
The best place to find those 404 error is in the Search Console of your Google Webmaster Tools account for your Shopify store.
If you haven’t added your store yet then first submit your Shopify store and the sitemap in Google. The Search Console is the most important tool you need for monitoring the SEO health of your store.
If you have the search console set up already, login and go to the dashboard. On the left hand sidebar click Crawl and then Crawl Errors.
Now, there are two main tabs under URL Errors, Desktop and Smartphone. By default, it’s Desktop selected. Under both the tabs, you will find the Soft 404 and Not Found errors.
Under each tab a list of all the URLs for which Google is getting the respective error.
Soft 404 errors.
This is the error Google get when the URLs are missing but the server doesn’t send 404 response. This usually happens when you have removed some tags or the page no. of a paginated URL doesn’t exist anymore.
You don’t need to worry about these URLs as these really don’t hurt SEO.
What you really need to worry about is the Not Found errors. You can find those under the Not Found tab as shown below.
How to handle the 404 errors
You need to do two things to handle the 404 issue.
- Create redirects for the 404 URLs.
- Create a custom 404 page (this helps when the URL is missing but you haven’t set up the redirect yet.)
1. Create redirects for the 404 URLs
Once you see the list of URLs under the Not Found tab as shown above. Download the list of the URLs. You will have two options CSV or Google Drive. Either way, you will have a sheet as shown below.
Once you have the sheet ready, filter out the URLs with 404 response code (on the second column of the sheet).
Now you need to create redirects for all the URLs with 404 error.
Where should you redirect?
The main purpose of the redirection is to direct the visitor to another link with related content so that the visitor find what she was looking for or at least something close to that. Also, once you have redirected the URL to an existing URL, Google will not get 404 response anymore, which is better in terms of SEO.
i) If you are redirecting an URL of an existing page which you have changed recently, you should redirect to the new URL. For example, if you have changed yourstore.com/contactus/ to yourstore.com/contact-us/ then you should create a redirect for the same.
ii) If you have deleted the page then redirect to the Home page. However, for deleted product pages you should either redirect to a similar product or the collection page for the product. If there’s none then redirect to the home page.
How to set up redirects in Shopify
Go to your Shopify store dashboard. On the left hand sidebar click on the menu Navigation. In the page loaded you will find a link URL Redirects as shown below.
Click on the URL redirects and you will be in the page where you can add new redirects. You will see the button Add URL redirect. Once you click the button, you will get a pop-up where you can set the redirection with the old and the new URL.
Now in the Old URL field Copy paste the path excluding your domain name of the URL, from the sheet you downloaded. In the Redirect in the new page field put the whole URL (including your domain name) to which you wish to redirect.
For example, if you want to redirect yourstore.com/contactus/ to yourstore.com/contact-us/ then in the Old URL field put only /contactus/ and in the new page field put yourstore.com/contact-us/.
While you can do it manually this way, you can also use a Shopify SEO app to manage the redirections.
2. Create a custom 404 page
You will be able to redirect the URLs only when you have detected the 404 error. That means unless you set the redirect, the visitors will land on the 404 page and most probably will bounce off your store. Here’s a fix for that.
Create a custom 404 page where you can put some content to help the visitors find what she is looking for. However, there’s no easy way to customize the 404 page template of your Shopify store. Here’s how to add elements in the 404 template by editing the theme files.
If you are not very comfortable with the Shopify codes, you may seek help from Shopify experts.