The dos and don'ts of 404s for healthcare websites
How many times have you seen “404, page not found” when navigating the web? It’s frustrating to consumers and businesses alike, and companies should keep in mind the necessity of addressing 404s to drive search engine optimization and enhance user experience to your healthcare website. The 404 error is designated for links that are broken and no longer exist, and there are several ways to handle these “not found” errors.
DON’T panic. 404s are normal.
DO identify 404 errors to see which links are causing issues to recover the problem. Google Webmaster tools or your CMS’s internal reporting system can help determine where the 404s are coming from.
DON’T redirect all 404s to the homepage. It’s confusing to the visitor and the spiders.
DO designate a page on your site that a visitor is redirected to in case of a broken link. Include an explanation of the error and offer to return to homepage or any other page on the site. You may also populate this page with search results relevant to the broken link in case the visitor mistyped the URL.
DON’T redirect non-existent links. Sometimes spam links are generated by spam bots that look like they could be a malformed URL on your site. Monitor your site to ensure this doesn’t happen.
DO always carefully identify each 404 link first. If there’s not a good page match for a 404, don’t redirect it. Rather, submit it to Google’s webmaster tools as a request to remove from index as that page no longer exists.
DON’T just send a visitor to a 404 not found page with little explanation. You want to make sure that visitor is not completely lost. There is nothing worse than a “Visitor not found.”
DO make sure that this page contains basic navigation so that it offers popular article links or other content of interest.
Adobe presents a full sitemap of its main pages.
RedEnvelope goes one step further and provides an error message, product recommendations and a 10 percent off coupon for the inconvenience that a missing page might have caused.
ALWAYS DO make sure your server returns the proper 404 header when redirecting from the non-existent page. A 404 error is meant to alert you, your visitors and search engines that the page no longer exists.
If you’re interested in working with our digital team on healthcare SEO, 404 strategy and other digital best practices, visit our digital services site to learn more.