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I have a WordPress website in which people can link to existing or non-existing posts. So people can make links and they can link to pages/posts that don't exist. I explicitly made this possible, because it is in favour of my site and users.

You might ask how my 404 error page looks like... Well, it has a search box and it gives the error. Beside that, I have installed a plugin that will automatically redirect to related posts if the URL looks like a post that already exists.

My question would be: is my 404 error good enough and what about the plugin? How will this affect the SEO of my site? When is a 404 page a good thing?

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404 pages can be good things, especially for pages that were live, but are no longer live. The 404 page tells uses and search engines that might have followed a link from another website, or an old search result and the page is no longer there.

When 404's become a problem is when your site is still linking to these pages. This can be seen as a sign of a badly maintained or coded website and is frustrating for uses if they are constantly clicking links only to be sent to a 404 page.

Although Google don't explicitly say 404's are bad for SEO.....

Generally, 404 errors don’t impact your site’s ranking in Google, and you can safely ignore them.

.......I'm pretty sure that if your site is constantly linking to hundreds of 404s this could be frowned upon by Google, after all they are reported on in Google Webmaster Tools, and Google are constantly talking about making great websites and user experiences for users.

It's hard to give advise in this case, without knowing why you need to let users link to non-existing pages. In the first instance I would not want my website creating links to non-existing pages.

Also in addition, make sure your 404 pages are actualy sending a 404 server status.

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Thanks Moobot. What do you mean with sending a 404 server status? What is the advantage of doing so and where do I do that? Well, I can understand asking why I need a 404 page. Actually, it is not necessary, but with this, I make internal links possible. Users can link to other posts but they also can make a statement, which can be made a link. This statement will not be existing as a post, so than they automatically get 404 pages. I can say that this amount is much more than 100... –  BlackEagle Jun 20 '13 at 10:50
    
If you have a 404 page it must return a 404 server status. If the 404 page does not return a 404 status and sends a 200 status then the 404 page can get indexed in Google and can cause soft 404 errors and duplicate pages: More info here: support.google.com/webmasters/bin/… –  Max Jun 21 '13 at 2:37
    
Thank you for the information moobot, I will check on that. –  BlackEagle Jun 21 '13 at 7:03

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