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30 May 2014

No one wants to face the 404 pages while surfing the Internet. It hurts you badly in achieving traffic as well as in your readership. And having 404 errors on your website creates a black mark on the quality of your website in the long run. Most often 404 errors does not occur in your posts but on the comments displayed. I have a routine check on my 404 errors and often delete the comment when it hurts my blog.

So first of all, what exactly is a 404 error? According to Wikipedia “The 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with the server, but the server could not find what was requested.” This means that we get 404 errors only when a link that redirects inside or to an external page does not exist or cannot be found. It is a true broken link. 

And as you might have guessed it, fixing 404 error pages will optimize your page and will improve user experience though it does not affect your Google Ranking. No one likes disappointing their readers and neither do I. In case if you have a large number of posts, it becomes time consuming job fixing the 404 error pages. So, always prioritise your top-ranking posts and just fix them. Having said, I write this post with a sole intention of helping bloggers and other people who might have this issue and wanted some brief answers relating to "page not found" errors. Below are three important answers that will help you achieve what you have been looking for.

  1. How to Analyse and Track 404 pages 
  2. How to build your own 404 page 
  3. How to Create an Alert on Google Analytics

1.How to Analyse and Track 404 pages


Although there are many ways to analyze and optimize 404 pages, I found the below sites truly useful. 

Google Webmaster Tools: Go to your Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard-> Crawl -> Crawl Errors ,you will find the URL errors and their respective response codes. The most commonly seen response codes are 503 and 404 error codes. The 503 error codes are server connectivity error codes and depends upon various reasons. The 404 error codes on the other hand can be easily managed.

Broken Link Checker: The free website http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/ helps report distinct broken links and all occurrences of dead link. The reason I prefer this website is that the broken links are organised neatly making it easy to track my 404 pages using the URL and the SCR. Similar websites include http://www.deadlinkchecker.com/ and http://validator.w3.org/.

2. How to build your own 404 page


Customizing your 404 page: You can create a custom 404 page providing users with useful content if you have access to your server. One lovely example to display is from Indiblogger.com, my favorite blogger community who have created their own custom 404 error page when I misspelt 'forum' as 'form' in their link.

page not found errors
Oops! Page not found error
You can create you own custom 404 page by adding an enhance 404 widget or use extensions which are available from Joomla Extensions Directory or even can use snippet code from NotFound projects which turn 404 pages into data about missing children.

Using 301 redirects: If the broken links are coming from your own blog or website, find them using the above "How to Analyse and Track 404 pages", fix them or delete them. But if they are coming from an external site, either contact that website's author and fix it (or) use 301 redirects. You have to use 301 redirects only for misspelled URL or to redirect your old domain to a newer domain.

3. How to Create an Alert on Google Analytics


Using Google Analytics, you can monitor your 404 page traffic efficiently by creating a custom alert. To do this, go to Google Analytics dashboard -> Administration-> Custom Alerts and set as the following image looks.

custom alert in Google Analytics
Creating custom alert in Google Analytics
So whenever your 404 pages goes up, the alert you have created would send you an email to keep the 404 pages in check (see image below). It is the most easiest and effective way to track your 404 error pages.

google alert
Email alert received from Google Analytics

Hope you got all answers regarding 404 error pages :)

3 comments:

  1. A very helpful post. Though I knew how to customize a 404 page I had no idea how to track it. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. informative and the good thing about this article is you wrote it keeping in the mind about naive technical people !

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative. I am not sure i can fix it if I have problem.

    ReplyDelete

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