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Depending on the type of site that you are running, it may or may not be advantageous to display search results instead of a 404 page, when someone visits a non-existent page on your site.

I believe that the site I've been maintaining recently would benefit from this as it is the site of a publication. With a publication the more people you can get to read your site the better.

But after reading up on how Google ranks the "quality" of your site, where you will appear in SERPs, based on how much the meta text of a page relates to the content of the page, I have to wonder if making a 404 page link to the search results would harm the "quality" of your site in Google eyes.

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This has been around a while long before it was a plugin AskApache had some good ideas on using 404s wordpress.org/extend/plugins/askapache-google-404 – Anagio Jun 28 '12 at 18:49
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If the page requested does not exist serving a 404 HTTP status code is the correct thing to do and won't hurt your site. It will result in the page being removed from the search engine results but that's what is supposed to happen.

Displaying search results on that page is great usability. It gives you a second chance to convert that user into a customer (or whatever else you want them to do).

Bottom line is this won't hurt your SEO and is good for your website overall.

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