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Can 58k 404 Errors reported in GWT be causing traffic drop?



1:57 pm on Sep 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

We run a blog+community website and it's earned lot of reputation because of its usefulness and original content. Our blog (Wordpress powered) regularly appears in Google news and we've several authors who publish news round the clock, and every post is edited by dedicated editors.

I noticed that our blog authors had added lot of tags that were linked to either one or zero posts. I decided to delete them in one go (big mistake, I think) and deleted them. I did not set 301 redirects; and all the deleted tag pages now show 404s.

On 5th September, I noticed sudden decrease (40%) in our traffic to the 'community forums' (while the blog traffic decreased only by 10%) . GWT currently reports over 58k 404 errors on the site. My question is :-

1. Can removal of large number of tags from our blog affect the traffic to our overall site (mostly to the community)?

2. What is the best way to recover? I'm not sure if setting up 301 to blog homepage is right thing to do?

3. The site has survived Panda and Penguin updates because we've always focused on original content and never involved in any link-building or SEO strategies. Is there anything I should be looking at?


7:33 pm on Sep 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Hello The BigK - and welcome to the forums.

Yes, I have seen removal of a high percentage of URLs from a site have a negative effect on traffic. It almost seems like Google takes some extra time to study the new situation at that point.

I'd say there's not much you can do but wait it out - and double check everything to make sure there are no technical errors, such as links still on current pages that still point to those removed tag pages.


2:41 am on Sep 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hello tedster, thank you for your reply. We have an internal-linking plugin that points to these tags; but it generates those links in real time. So I guess, I'll have to wait until Google understands that those links are gone.

Is there any estimate of how long will this take? I need a ballpark figure to know the kind of 'wait' I'm going to go through. I've made sure that there are no other errors (there were a few server related, but I fixed them).


8:07 pm on Sep 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I had a database problem on one of my sites that caused errors for about a week. Traffic from Google dropped sharply after that, but has started to recover ... slowly.

The dropoff occurred for about a week then traffic was steady (low) for a couple of weeks. Now, the curve looks to be in the upward direction. If it continues at the same rate, it'll take about a month to recover.

Please take all the about with a big grain of salt. My site doesn't really get enough traffic for me to be able to analyze the stats in great detail and I, like everyone else on the planet, don't really know how Google handles this situation. :-)

-- (Jolly) Roger (Arrrr)


3:38 am on Sep 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@jadebox : Thank you for your reply. What's the overall time-frame I should be looking at considering the drop started on 5th September? I've taken no corrective actions so far; because there's nothing I can do, actually. I've just chosen to continue with creating quality content and minding our community.


4:14 am on Sep 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Did you check the URLs where Google says they found links to those tag URLs? It's one thing to make the URLs 404 - but if the site still shows the links to visitors who are not logged in, the errors can continue indefinitely.

That said, I'm currently working with a site that has 8,000 indexed URLs. Technical errors over Labor Day generated over 48,000 new 404 errors that are still not fixed. There have been no ranking or traffic problems from this issue so far - not even for newly published pages.


4:23 am on Sep 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

No, we used auto-internal linking plugin that linked to the pages automatically. So only the manual links (would be <1%) are the only ones that would be 'permanent'. But I can unlink them through another plugin, I guess.

I just checked and GWT now reports 75k Page Not Found errors. Looks like the count's going to go up for a few days.


6:32 pm on Sep 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"What's the overall time-frame I should be looking at considering the drop started on 5th September?"

I don't know. All I can do is relate my experiences as I did in the previous post.

As tedster said, the most important thing to do is to fix any problems a human vistor might encounter (i.e. broken links). It's not a big deal if Google can't find a page that no one would try to visit. But, if Google finds broken links on your site, it makes sense for them to be less likely to send people to it.

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