How to Fix 3 Common URL Problems: A Guide for Website Owners

Learn how to fix common URL problems, including invalid URLs, missing pages, and crawl errors, to improve your website's SEO and ensure search engines can index your site.
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    Dan Shaffer Director of
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  • October 27, 2023
  • 5 min. read


There’s nothing more frustrating than spending significant time creating an optimized site only to discover that users can’t access your pages because of problems with the URL. Sometimes, these errors can even lead to your site not showing in search results.

To ensure your site can show up in search engines and users can access your pages, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these common URL problems:

  1. Invalid URLs
  2. Missing pages
  3. Crawl errors

What happens if you come across these issues? How do you solve them?

On this page, we’ll explain these three common URL problems and offer solutions for how to fix them.

1. Invalid or bad URLs

The first problem you’ll want to look for is an invalid or bad URL. This issue will prohibit Google from processing the URL, so it’s critical to resolve. Luckily, it’s also an easy problem to fix.

First, let’s get the basics down and define “what does ‘bad URL’ mean?”

What does “bad URL” mean?

A bad URL, or an invalid URL, is one that contains spaces, symbols, or structures that Google can’t process. The characters and structures that can invalidate your URL include:

  • Spaces
  • Backslashes
  • Relative URLs, such as /blog.html, instead of the complete URL, like

How to fix an invalid URL

If any of your URLs use the above characters or structures, replace them with these solutions:

  • Spaces: Use %20 instead of the space
  • Backslashes: Use forward slashes (/) instead
  • Relative URLs: Use the complete URL, starting with “http://”

2. Missing pages

There are two common types of errors related to missing pages or content, both referred to as 404s. First, you might have a true 404 error, in which the page doesn’t exist. The second error is a soft 404, which technically returns a page even if it doesn’t exist.

Let’s dive into both types and the solutions for each.

404 errors (not found)

A 404 error means the page wasn’t found. These errors can be frustrating for the user because the link they clicked on doesn’t exist. For example, if a healthcare facility has URLs for each of its doctors, but deletes those URLs when a doctor leaves, that creates a 404.

How to fix this URL problem

You can fix a 404 error by:

  • Customizing your 404 error page: Improve the user experience with a friendly message and a link to another page the user might find helpful.
  • Adding a 301 redirect: The original page this URL linked to may no longer exist, but you have a similar page to which you want to reroute traffic. Use a 301 redirect to take the user to that page instead.
  • Checking for accurate links: If you’re receiving a 404 and are unsure why, double-check your sitemap and internal links for accuracy. Make sure there are no pesky typos!

Soft 404 errors

While a true 404 error means the page cannot be found, a soft 404 means the page returned a successful 200 status code, but it doesn’t actually exist. A soft 404 can also occur when a page has no content or thin content.

How to fix this URL problem

To correct these errors, you have a few options, depending on the URL in question:

  • Add unique content (if there’s not enough, merge it with another page)
  • Set up a 301 redirect
  • Configure a 404 or 410 response
  • Mark the URL as noindex

3. Crawl errors

To potentially show your site in the search results, search engines must crawl your site. If site errors prevent search engines from doing so, they can’t index it, which means your site won’t appear in the search results. These errors are known as crawl errors.

Crawl errors can be site-wide server errors, or they can be URL errors that affect your SEO and site experience. This section will cover some of the most common URL errors and how to fix them.

Access denied

If the crawler can’t access the page, you might see an access denied error. This problem can occur because your page is gated behind a login or your robots.txt file blocks the page.

How to fix this URL problem

If you’re receiving an access denied error message for a URL that you want to appear in search engines, check to make sure the user doesn’t have to log in to access it. Next, make sure it’s not listed in your robots.txt file.

Broken redirects and redirect loops

Other common crawl errors are broken redirects and redirect loops, which can impede search engines from following the URL to its destination. A redirect loop occurs when the page you redirect a URL to redirects the user back to the initial page.

How to fix this URL problem

First, ensure any redirects you’ve set up point to the correct page. Ensure the redirected URL is valid and contains no typos or invalid characters.

Otherwise, use your .htaccess file to locate the URL in question. If you notice a redirect loop, you can either remove the redirects or set up a new redirect to the proper page.

Don’t let URL problems hurt your site’s SEO

While not all of these URL problems are mission-critical, some can prevent vital pages from appearing in search results. If you notice any of these URL errors, follow the steps to resolve them so search engines (and users) can access your pages.

Portrait of a smiling man in burgundy shirt, transparent background.
Dan has 10+ years experience as an SEO for one of the largest SEO agencies in the USA. He’s seen it all! You can breathe easy knowing his many battles in the SERPs have informed the insights he shares here.

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