If you happen to link to a 404 page from your site, will Google demote that page since it delivers a perceived sub-optimal user experience? Or would linking to a page that ends up becoming a 404 just be seen as a typical thing on the web as far as Google is concerned?
I asked Gary Illyes from Google, after some SEOs were stating that linking to a 404 would cause that page’s ranks to be demoted. And the answer is unequivocally no.
Pages can go to a 404 for a number of reasons… perhaps the site was redesigned and pages weren’t all correctly redirected; perhaps the site was temporarily unavailable and was using a 404 server code; or perhaps the site is permanently offline or has switched to a domain parking page. And many webmasters don’t monitor their outgoing links on a regular basis to catch them all. And penalizing a site for something another website has done would be a horrible idea.
Now, from a user experience perspective, linking to a 404 page isn’t the best experience for those users, and it makes sense to periodically crawl your site and check links for 404s or other errors. But for any larger site, linking to pages that become 404s in the future will always happen and is just what happens in an evolving web.
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