It’s happened to everyone: you click on an inviting link, select a promising search result, or type an address into your browser only to be greeted with this:
This jarring phenomenon to your browsing experience, as the above image says, is a 404 error. It means the page could not be found on the website’s server, and there can be several reasons for this:
The page was deleted.
The page URL was changed and no redirect was implemented.
The URL was typed in incorrectly.
Whatever the cause, 404s on your site need to be corrected to ensure a pleasant user experience. (They do not affect your performance in search.) Even if you don’t know anything about web development, you can take the following steps to learn how to fix a 404 error.
1. Perform a Site Crawl
You can use various paid tools to do this like Moz or Screaming Frog, but if Google Search Console (formerly known as Web Master’s Tools) is set up on your website, you can look at the results from crawls that are performed automatically.
When you log in and land on the Dashboard, a clickable tab located front and center labeled “Crawl Errors” will show you everything you’re looking for.
Clicking on “Crawl Errors” will give you a closer look with more specifics, such as how many errors were found, when they were found, and a list of which pages have the error.
2. Implement Redirects
Now that you know where the issues are, it’s time to get down to the real business of fixing them.
You first need to find a page with content that closely matches the subject of the error page. After figuring this out, you’ll know what page you will redirect users to from the 404 page.
Now it’s time to create a redirect. I’ll explain how to do this from your general server, or if you have Wordpress, how you can use a plugin to correct the error.
If you have access to your server, this method is preferred because it takes less time to go into effect. Each one is a little different, but the general steps are the same:
Log into your server.
Search or otherwise find where on the site you can make redirect rules. Choose to make a new redirect rule.
Add “source” and “destination” URL’s. The source is the 404 page, the destination is the page you want to redirect to.
The source URL should be a relative URL. For example: /blog
The destination should be an absolute URL. For example: http://info.biztraffic.com/blog
Now click “save” and you’re done!
If you have Wordpress, a plugin can do the job. Start by adding a new plugin:
Search plugins. We recommend using Redirection.
Install and follow the same steps as above.
Once you’ve implemented the redirects, type the old URL into your browser and see what happens. Obviously, if you get to the new page, congratulations! You’ve fixed the 404 error!
If you still get a 404 page, wait a few minutes and try it again to give it some time to take effect. If it’s still not working, check and make sure your source URLs are relative, the destination is absolute, and they are both EXACTLY correct (meaning not even a forward slash on the end of the URLs!)
You don’t have to be a seasoned developer to fix a 404 error; anyone that has a website can follow the steps above and do the job. By learning how to fix these errors you’ll be improving the user experience of your site so that it delights anyone who visits and encourages them to convert into a lead.