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404 Pages

404 Pages appear when one of the pages from a search result (or otherwise) no longer exists on your site. The server normally throws a very basic ‘death notice’ at the screen and everything comes to a stop – and that includes the momentum for the search. To overcome this tragedy you really should make a custom 404 page or have a redirect. 404 Pages are important for two reasons. Spiders hate dead-ends and have to have something to guide them on their merry way, as do the human searchers, the letter being particularly fickle.   If a page is missing, for some reason, it’s tragic just to get a some standard system error and a sure fire way of having people suspend their search. Two ways to overcome this: Redirect any 404 errors to your home page. That’s a very simple (if a bit rough and ready) solution and can be done through your .htaccess file. But the drawback is that it could confuse the searcher as they are unaware as to why they have landed on this page when they specifically asked for another. The ‘correct’ way around that is to create a custom 404. It can be…

sitemap
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Sitemaps

Sitemaps are there for the benefit of both our human and not so human visitor. For the Spiders they are a ‘pointer’ as to where to find pages on the site. It’s very likely that spiders will, through your internal linking find all the pages, but it’s better to cut down on the hit and miss and give the spiders a road map of where your pages are. Most CMS have plugins or widgets to help you draw up a sitemap. If they don’t there are plenty of places on the net what will do it for you automatically, like xml-sitemaps for example. You simply leave the resultant file on the root of your site and then nudge Google through Webmaster Tools that the map is available. There are plenty of reasons that this file is fairly important. Firstly it determines the canonical versions of your site, whether you’ve opted for www or non www. If you can, try and use a sitemap generator that supplies a ‘last modified’ stamp – the actual time/date that the pages were modified. If that’s in your sitemap, it indicates to Google the pages that should be given a priority as they have been…