404 vs. 301: What Are They, and How Do You Fix Them?

Seeing an error on your website is scary, especially the first time it happens.

Why isn’t your website working? Why won’t it take visitors to where they’re supposed to go instead of showing them an error page?

What’s the difference in a 404 vs. 301 error?

In this article, we’ll explain both error types and how to fix them. (Don’t worry: they’re pretty easy to fix once you understand what’s going on.)

What is a 404 error?

A 404 error is one of the most common errors we all see on the internet.

Whenever you see a 404, it means the URL you typed into the search bar doesn’t exist on that website. You got the domain name right, but what came after the “/” is wrong.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as double-checking your spelling. Other times, it means what comes after the “/” has changed. (This is called the permalink.) If people are getting a 404 error on your website, it means one of two things:

  • The spelling of the link they clicked on is wrong.
  • You’ve changed the permalink and haven’t set up a redirect.

According to Google, when there’s a 404 error, that tells the search engine not to pay attention to the page anymore, which may negatively impact the SEO performance of your website.

How to fix a 404 error

There are two ways to fix a 404 error. The first is to correct the spelling of links leading to the desired page. If that’s the main reason for the problem, that’s enough. Track down where your links are to that page and update them.

The second way is to set up a redirect with a 301 redirect plugin. Here is our step-by-step tutorial on how to do it. With the redirect, people will be led to the new page, even when they type or click on the old permalink.

What is a 301 error?

When someone sees a 301 error, it usually says “301 Moved Permanently.”

This means the website has been transferred over to a new domain (not just to a new permalink) and that your server isn’t bridging the gap from the old domain to the new one. This can be bad news, because people who want to view your content can’t. Fortunately, these are pretty easy to fix.

How to fix a 301 error

All a 301 error tells you is that the pages readers are trying to access aren’t available and that a redirect needs to be set up to bridge the gap to get them to where they want to go.

To do this, you can use the same 301 redirect plugin and tutorial we mentioned above.

A 301 redirect may lose about 15 percent of your page rank, but that’s much better than people never being able to view your content again.

404 vs. 301: Two errors that are easy to fix

We know it can be scary to realize your website isn’t working right. But fortunately, you know now that when you see a 404 or a 301 error, they’re an easy fix. All you need to do is either correct spelling somewhere or create a 301 redirect to bridge the gap between the old domain or permalink and the new one.

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