We know that links pointing to pages that do not exist, that 404 or some soft 404, are links that are not counted by Google – that is not new. But John Mueller of Google spoke about how sometimes you can redirect old 404 pages and that link may pass to the new page, even if that link is 404ed for years?
To be clear, a link that points to a 404ed page does not count. If that page is 404ed for a year or so, and then you add a redirect, I highly doubt Google will begin to count that link again. But John Mueller said that in some cases, if the links to the two year old 404ed page are super strong, that maybe Google will count it again after you redirect it. Or maybe he was being nice to the person asking the question?
John said “I’d say for for a certain while you can still go back and add a redirect for those individual links that you see like that. I don’t know if after two years it would make a big difference unless there are really strong links that are going to your site and kind of being lost like that.”
This question and answer came up at the 19:43 mark in the video hangout from last Friday:
Here is the transcript:
SEO: Another question is about the broken links on our website where our website has around 40k in pages and doubled the links. So we have around 20k of broken links caused by a migration gone bad from a platform to another platform. Since then we started noticing decrease in organic traffic. We used to rank let’s say for 20k, 25k per day in organic traffic now we’re only getting like 2k to 3k or 4k at max. So do you think it’s a great metric to SEO ranking to remove this these broken links and 404 pages?
John Mueller: When when did you do that migration? Is that longer ago?
SEO: Yes, it happened in 2020, about two years ago now.
John Mueller: My guess is for the most part that doesn’t matter anymore. So it is something I would watch out for with any migration because. Essentially the main thing you want to catch is the situation where someone externally links to your website and that link to your website essentially goes into nowhere. So if you see someone externally linking to a page that is now a 404 page because you forgot to redirect it, that link is is kind of lost. And if you see that happening at a larger scale then those those links are things that you will lose and that can be reflected in the search results over time as well.
I’d say for for a certain while you can still go back and add a redirect for those individual links that you see like that. I don’t know if after two years it would make a big difference unless there are really strong links that are going to your site and kind of being lost like that.
Glenn Gabe summed it up nicely in this set of tweets:
More: You can also estimate this by checking server logs. If you see a lot of crawlers from search engine going to specific 404s, sometimes that’s a sign they think there will be something useful there, but they get lost. Determine what could be redirected https://t.co/fGr9HUoTCx pic.twitter.com/5MBZ0APikS
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) March 22, 2022
The video goes on to explain what you can look for to see if Google is still trying to access those 404s, hence your log files.
I just doubt a link to a 404 page that has been like that for two years is really recoverable but maybe I am wrong?
Forum discussion at Twitter.