How to Remove 404 Error Pages From Google

To remove 404 error pages from Google search results, you should first address the issue causing these errors by fixing broken links or creating the missing pages on your website.

Once the problems are resolved, use Google Search Console to validate your fiexes. Google will subsequently re-crawl your site and update its index, ultimately eliminating the 404 errors from search results.

Let’s dive in and uncover the steps you can take to remove 404 error pages from Google.

What is a 404 error page?

A 404 error page is a standard HTTP response status code that indicates the requested URL cannot be found on the server. It serves as a communication tool between the server and the client (the user’s browser), informing the user that the desired page could not be located.

Essentially, a 404 error page is displayed when a user attempts to access a webpage that no longer exists or has been moved. Instead of being directed to the intended page, the user encounters a dead-end error page. This can be frustrating for users and negatively impact their overall experience on your website.

In terms of SEO, 404 error pages can harm your website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). When search engine bots encounter numerous dead-end pages during their crawl, they may interpret it as poor website quality and relevance, resulting in decreased visibility and lower organic rankings. Consequently, removing or redirecting 404 error pages is essential to ensure optimal SEO performance.

Why do 404 Errors occur?

404 errors can occur due to various reasons, including:

  • Page or content deletion without proper redirection
  • Mistyped or broken links
  • Inaccurate internal linking within your website
  • URL changes without setting up appropriate redirects
  • External links pointing to non-existent pages
  • Sitemap includes pages that no longer exist.

Should I remove all 404 pages?

It’s not always necessary to remove all 404 (Page Not Found) pages from your website. 

As John Mueller recently answered on Reddit:

Just ignore them. If the page isn’t meant to exist, then having it return 404 is expected. If you thought the page was supposed to exist, then this error is a good reminder. 

404 pages should be removed or fixed in the following situations:

  1. When the page is important for your site: If the 404 error is occurring on a page that’s crucial to your website, like a product page or an essential piece of content, you should fix the error by either restoring the page or redirecting the URL to a relevant existing page.
  2. When the page receives substantial traffic: If a page that’s showing a 404 error still receives significant traffic, it’s important to rectify the situation. You don’t want to lose potential visitors or customers because they’re landing on a non-existent page.
  3. When the page has valuable backlinks: If a page with a 404 error has high-quality backlinks pointing to it, you should consider fixing the error. Those backlinks can contribute to your site’s SEO, so you don’t want to waste them.

In these cases, you have two main options: you can either restore the page if it was deleted accidentally, or you can set up a 301 redirect to send visitors and search engines to a different, relevant page on your site.

In other cases, where the 404 page does not meet these criteria, it’s often best to let the page return a 404 status. This tells search engines that the page is not found and should be de-indexed.

How to remove 404 Error Pages from Google

Now that you have identified the 404 error pages on your website, it’s time to take action and remove them from Google’s index. There are several methods you can employ to achieve this.

1. Identify 404 pages

Before you can remove 404 error pages from Google, you need to identify which pages on your website are generating these errors. You can use the Google Search Console to identify 404 pages. 

Go to the “Page Indexing” section to see the list of your website’s pages that returned a 404 status. You can then inspect each URL to understand why it’s returning a 404 error.

You can use Google Search Console to identify 404 pages by checking "Page Indexing" report

Alternatively, you can also use Screaming Frog to find 404 error pages. While Google Search Console focuses on Google’s perspective, Screaming Frog provides a comprehensive scan of your site’s pages, allowing you to customize the scan and gather data on specific pages and their HTTP status codes.

2. Remove the content or apply a 301 redirect

One of the most effective ways to remove 404 error pages is by setting up 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirection from one URL to another. By redirecting the user from the old, non-existent URL to a relevant, active URL, you can ensure a seamless user experience and retain any SEO authority associated with the original page.

If you’ve created a 404 page due to an incorrect internal link,  you can fix the internal link by going to the referring page where the link is located and updating it with the correct URL.

3. Mark as fixed in Google Search Console

If you have submitted a sitemap to Google, make sure the correct URL is listed in the sitemap. This can help Google quickly discover the correct URL.

After fixing the issue, go back to the “Page Indexing” report in Google Search Console and validate the fix. Google will re-crawl the URL and, if the issue is resolved, it will remove the error.

Validate your fix in Google Search Console

4. Submit a removal request (if necessary)

If a page with sensitive information returns a 404 and you need it to be de-indexed quickly, you can submit a removal request via Google Search Console.

By submitting a removal request through Google Search Console, you can expedite the process of removing unwanted or non-existent URLs from the search results.

How to prevent future 404 Errors

While it’s important to remove existing 404 error pages, it’s equally crucial to implement preventive measures to avoid future occurrence. Here are some proactive steps you can take:

1. Regular website audits

Performing regular website audits allows you to identify and resolve any broken links, outdated pages, or incorrect redirects. By keeping your website well-maintained and up-to-date, you can minimise the occurrence of 404 errors and provide a seamless user experience.

2. Proper link management

Ensure that all internal and external links on your website are accurate, properly formatted, and functional. Conduct periodic checks to verify that linked pages are still active and relevant. By maintaining proper link management practices, you can reduce the chances of 404 errors and improve your website’s overall performance.

3. Updating content regularly

Regularly updating your website’s content helps ensure that all pages remain relevant and useful to your audience. By updating or revamping outdated content, you can eliminate the occurrence of 404 errors caused by obsolete or irrelevant pages.

FAQs about 404 Pages

Does Google remove 404 pages?

Google doesn’t automatically remove 404 pages from its index. Instead, it will periodically revisit the URLs it knows about and re-crawl them. During this process, if Google encounters a 404 error, it will note that the page is no longer available and update its index accordingly. However, this may take some time, and it’s not an immediate removal.

Should you disallow 404 pages in robots.txt?

Using robots.txt to disallow search engine bots from crawling your 404 pages is generally not recommended. Disallowing bots from crawling 404 pages via robots.txt doesn’t save your crawl budget. Search engines still need to crawl the page to see the disallow directive. It’s more efficient to let them crawl the page, see the 404 status, and decide to de-index it. Also, if you accidentally disallow a page that shouldn’t be, it could lead to de-indexing of important pages.

Should you remove 404 pages in the sitemap?

Yes, you should generally remove 404 pages from your sitemap. Sitemaps are intended to provide search engines with a list of valid, accessible URLs on your website. Including 404 pages in your sitemap can confuse search engines and waste their resources.

By removing 404 pages from your sitemap, you help search engines focus on indexing your valuable, accessible content. It’s important to keep your sitemap up-to-date and ensure it contains only valid, relevant URLs.

When will Google remove 404 pages?

Google removes 404 pages from its index during its regular crawling and indexing process. When Googlebot crawls your website, it checks the status of the URLs it encounters. If it finds a URL returning a 404 error, it will eventually remove that URL from its index.

The exact timing of this removal can vary and depends on factors such as the frequency of Googlebot’s visits to your site and the overall size and importance of your website. It may take days to weeks for Google to update its index and remove 404 pages. You can expedite the removal process by using the methods mentioned earlier, such as fixing issues, setting up redirects, marking pages as fixed in Google Search Console, and submitting removal requests.

Will Google remove spam 404 pages?

Google generally removes spammy or low-quality 404 pages from its index over time, especially during its regular crawling and indexing processes. However, the timing of removal can vary, and it may not always happen as quickly as desired.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.