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Just to clarify, the actual Google SERP has the text "Error - File Not Found" as the link for result #4, and the description is:
"Error - File Not Found The link you have followed may have been moved,
replaced, or removed. Please proceed back to the top level ... "
It's even cached as such.
[edited by: WileE at 1:37 am (utc) on Mar. 9, 2003]
I doubt that google would cache a true 404 page. I have seen pages that look like 404 pages (the page contents say "page not found" and such), but they are not actually a 404 page because the http status for the page is 200.
I wonder if the http status for the page in question is 200 (ok) instead of 404 (not found). You can check that with:
If the webmaster uses the directive in the form:
ErrorDocument 404 http;//www.example.com/my_error_page.html
The correct format is:
ErrorDocument 404 /my_error_page.html
This is the first thing to check if one of your 404 pages appears in the index.
I suppose it's better than an actual competitor site, but really I'd rather just be one higher, since that site doesn't exist!
BTW, answers within minutes. I love this place!
The site will be banned even more quickly if they have no explicit robots.txt file. If that is the case, their general 404 processor will attempt to say 404 (not found), but, instead will say 200 (ok) with an VERY invalid robots.txt.
No, they just look at the server response code. Yours, being correct, makes your situation pretty unique.
You may want to check for a "silent" redirect to your 404 page, for example, a mod_rewrite redirect without an [R] flag. If you're not on Apache, this is not applicable.
404's must cause immense frustration to many people, they think the site is down, when in fact it is Google that is causing the problem.