We know that links to non-existent pages, ie 404s or some soft 404s, are links that are not counted by Google. This is nothing new. But Google’s John Mueller told me that sometimes it’s possible to redirect an old 404 page, and even if that link has been 404ed for years, the link could go to a new page.
For clarity, links pointing to 404ed pages are not counted. If that page stays 404ed for a year or so and then adds a redirect, I doubt Google will start counting that link again. However, John Mueller says that in some cases, if the link to his 404ed page from two years ago is so strong, he may be counted again by Google after a redirect. Or were you being nice to the questioner?
Mr John said: A strong link to your site and kind of lost that way. “
This question and answer came up on last Friday’s video call at the 19:43 mark.
Here is the transcript:
SEO: Another question is about broken links on our website. Our company has about 40,000 pages on his website with double the links. As a result, about 20,000 links are broken due to poor migration from one platform to another. Since then, I started noticing a drop in organic traffic. Previously in organic traffic he was ranking 20,000, 25,000 per day, now at most he gets only 2,000-3,000 or 4,000 or so. So do you think removing those broken links and 404 pages would be a good indicator of your SEO ranking?
John Mueller: When did you make the transition? Was it earlier?
SEO: Yes, it happened in 2020. About two years ago now.
John Mueller: My guess is that in most cases it no longer matters. So this is why we need to be careful with migrations. Basically, the main thing you want to figure out is the situation where someone has an external link to your website and your link to his website is going nowhere. So if you see someone linking externally to a page that is now a 404 page because they forgot to redirect, that link seems to be lost. And when we see that happening on a larger scale, those links can be lost and reflected in search results over time.
For a while you can go back and add redirects for individual links that appear that way. So, unless it’s something that’s lost like that.
Glenn Gabe sums it up nicely in this series of tweets.
Details: You can also deduce this by checking the server logs. If you see a lot of crawlers from search engines navigating to a particular 404, it can be a sign they think there’s something useful there, but they’re lost. Identify what can be redirected https://t.co/fGr9HUoTCx pic.twitter.com/5MBZ0APikS
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) March 22, 2022
This video explains what you can look for to see if Google is still trying to hit those 404’s, i.e. if it’s trying to hit your log files.
I wonder if a link to a 404 page that has been like that for two years is really recoverable, is it wrong?
forum discussion at twitter.