Website Error Messages: What’s Normal and What’s Not
Some things can chill you to the bone: an unexpected phone call late at night; the phrase, “We need to talk”; and notification of—gasp!—website errors. While we at Rosemont Media cannot help you much in the other two arenas, when it comes to website performance and site errors, we have you covered.
Now, there are a lot of different kinds of website errors; hundreds, even, but you’re more likely to come across a handful of common ones, which we will discuss here. Connection errors, WordPress errors, and Crawl errors tend to be the categories most people bump up against. Some require a simple fix (or just a little patience) while others are a wee bit more complicated.
Below, we’ve provided a quick overview of what each type of error is and what you can do to address it.
Keep in mind that this blog is simply meant to be an informative overview of common error reports. Fixing these can get pretty technical and recognizing when something can be left as-is or needs to be changed requires significant experience. For this reason, we encourage you to reach out to our team to handle these errors whenever possible.
404 Not Found
Browser errors, or connection errors, are usually pretty minor. A 404 – Page Not Found error indicates the page you are trying to access does not exist. This can happen when you mistype the URL or when a page has been moved or removed. If you come across this error, the first thing you should do is check that you typed out the URL correctly. If it persists, feel free to get in touch with us.
502 Bad Gateway
Another common HTTP error code, the “502 Bad Gateway” message indicates a miscommunication between servers. While this can happen when a server crashes or becomes overloaded, the error can also be the result of a programming issue. Fixing it may be as simple as refreshing your page or clearing cache files; nevertheless, it’s worth it to reach out to us if you encounter this message.
SSL Certificate Errors
SSL certificate errors appear when the browser can’t identify a site’s SSL certificate (the data file that confirms it as an authentic site). You may see an SSL certificate error when the security of a site is either unknown or known to be unsafe. Here are some examples of SSL certificate errors:
- “Invalid server certificate”
- “Your connection is not private”
- “This site can’t provide a secure connection”
These messages can mean the certificate was not properly configured or the site is illegitimate (and usually pretending to be something it’s not, such as your online bank). Regardless, you should click away from that URL.
Phishing and Malware
One of the benefits of using a well-known browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, for instance) is that they regularly download a list of suspect and dangerous websites. If you were to land on one of these sites, you might end up with malware—software designed to damage or disable your computer system—or the site may be phishing for personal information to engage in identity theft. If you see Reported Web Forgery! pop up on your screen, run the other direction (metaphorically speaking).
A CMS (content management system) is used to publish web pages, blog posts, and other material that visitors see when they browse a website. Our medical and dental clients typically use WordPress as their CMS, and we are continually amazed at the advanced features available on this platform. That said, as with any system, you may run into certain technological issues as you navigate WordPress. Frequently encountered WordPress errors include:
- “500 Internal Server Error,” which can pop up when there’s a problem with a theme or plugin
- “Error establishing a database connection,” which means WordPress is unable to connect to your database (typically because the credentials listed in the wp-config.php file are incorrect)
- The “White Screen of Death” (WSOD), an alarming (but generally fixable!) error caused by various potential phenomena, namely PHP error codes or memory limit exhaustion
WordPress errors can run the gamut from minor to major; however, with the help of an experienced administrator (such as our team), these issues can often be sorted out with ease. As always, if you have any questions, we welcome you to give us a call for more personalized information.
Google uses web spiders, or bots, to “crawl” web pages and keep their data up-to-date. When you receive a report that mentions crawl errors, they usually fall into one of two categories: site errors and URL errors. You can review these errors from the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
Site-level errors are problems affecting the entire website, and they can have catastrophic effects. Ideally, you will see a message in Search Console stating that you’ve had no errors in the last 90 days. Alternatively, you may see DNS (domain name system), Server, or Robots Failure errors. DNS errors can indicate poor user experience or inability to connect to the site entirely. Server errors suggest that your website is taking too long to load a page. A Robots Failure means that the spiders cannot access the list of pages you don’t want indexed. The last issue, Robots Failure, is the least pressing; however, the other two are quite serious. Either way, let our team know!
URL errors are limited to a single page, so they are often far less worrisome and urgent than site errors, but they can still cause problems. Sometimes you will see a bunch of URL errors—but that doesn’t mean you should lose your cool. The most important errors are listed first, and some may have already been addressed (it can take a few days for Search Console to update the info). Some of the most common errors include: Soft 404s, 404 Error, Access Denied, and Not Followed.
Other Errors, or: How Unethical Marketing Companies Target Practices
Have you ever received an email, usually written with less than exemplary English, that attempted to “warn” you about errors or other concerns affecting your website that they can help you with? Some questionable marketing companies employ sleazy sales tactics that involve scaring a potential client into doing business with them. No reputable business will use incomprehensible jargon to terrify someone into using a service. Reliable agencies will help you understand any issues you are having without belittling you, frightening you, or threatening you. Whether it has to do with search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), site errors, or competition, the right dental or medical marketing firm will be a partner in your web development strategy.
Website errors come in many flavors, and they can cause a lot of distress, but with the helping hand of a knowledgeable marketing company and website administrator, you can sleep soundly at night knowing your practice site is well protected. If you have any questions, whether it be about site errors, a suspicious email, or just general information, contact our friendly team of experts to find out more.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on July 10, 2018.