If you are familiar with the internet, you have to be familiar with 404 errors. These pages appear annoyingly when you are searching the web for articles. You will understand that the words,”The page cannot be found. This usually happens when there is no URL to send.

Just in case you have never noticed such a message or you also need to find the 404 page on your own website, then type the URL of the webpage you are interested in and a string of gibberish after that. You may see what I am discussing. This occurs because of a glitch from the client — server interaction, which may occur due to many reasons:

  • The page you are looking for may not exist any more.
  • The link to the page you are searching may be broken.
  • You may have simply typed the wrong URL.

An active website cannot totally avoid these errors, but a lot can be done to keep them down to the minimum.

404 Errors and Impact on Site SEO

A 404 page is bad for the SEO. A visitor is lost because the links on your site haven’t been maintained correctly. One or two broken links introduced periodically to search engines won’t really matter. However, you have a more serious problem if the search engine comes up against such mistakes frequently on your site. The greater bounce rate will have a negative effect on your SEO and it may take a while for your site to recoup from this.

If you are using Google Analytics plugin, you can see the errors easily as they are tagged. But search engines will also come up against 404 errors that normal visitors never do, because they crawl about just anything on your site. So, even hidden links are a source of 404 errors for the search engines. Xenu or Screaming Frog can help to find these errors and fix them.

You should also look for broken images or broken video embeds. These are hard to find using webmaster tools or Google Analytics, but Xenu and Screaming Frog can help you here too. You can also search in the server logs by looking for 404 plus “.jpg” and “.png”. They will not do much harm, but it is not a good experience for visitors.

Fixing 404 Errors

There are many ways in which you can redirect and fix 404 errors, and you can try these steps sequentially:

  1. You can manually check for broken links and fix redirects by searching in your .htaccess or NGINX server config, but this requires a bit of tech skills on your part. Or a few tweaks in the 404.php file can do the trick. This is the best way to fix 404 errors, but is you are not comfortable with code, you should skip this step.
  2. If the URL is altered, direct to the correct URL. If the file is a static file, check whether the file exists by opening the FTP and checking.
  3. If it exists, but showing up in a browser is a problem, then it is a server problem or a WordPress problem. For this, create 2 separate files- a html file and a PHP file and upload it. If you are able to access these files, there is no problem with the server and the problem lies with WordPress.
  4. WordPress uses a rewrite array that manages permalinks. Substandard plugins, changes in directory or custom post types can disrupt permalinks causing 404 error. To set this right, simply go to Permalinks and save the permalinks structure again in wp.admin folder. Open Permalinks under Settings and Save Changes. Permalinks will be updated. This fix will mostly do the work.
  5. If you have plugins installed or any plugin that creates permalinks, disable them and check.
  6. Check the WP rewrite array by using the Debug This plugin. This plugin, once activated will show the rewrite rules as well as the actual PHP string being rewritten.
  7. Disable plugins one by one and identify the plugin which is causing the errors.
  8. It is not necessary to completely remove old content. Instead, you can create a custom page at that URL and direct visitors to other similar pages or posts on your website.

There are many plugins that help you in finding, monitoring and redirecting broken links. I’ve listed a few of the popular ones here that do the job quite well.

Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is a free plugin from the WordPress repository. It is one of the first plugins that comes to mind when you want to do away with these annoying pages.

Once installed, it will scan your website for any link that is not doing its job. Depending on the size of your website, this may take time. You can opt to receive a notification of broken links in your email or in the Broken Link Checker widget on your dashboard. You can also opt to prevent search engines from following these broken links.

Broken Link Checker installed

You can see the Broken Link Checker at work by opening Link Checker under Settings. A Create Custom Filter option can be used to make only some links visible, for example links for a particular category of posts. What you choose to do with the link, can be decided with the help of options that open up when you hover over each link.

You can edit the URL, and all instances of that URL will be corrected. You can remove the link, this will leave the text intact. If the link is fine, but is displaying as broken, you can change it manually. Dismiss option will leave the link unchanged until the next status change. You can disable the plugin after each use and reactivate it for a periodic scan, if necessary.

404 Page by SeedProd

Whatever the theme your website is built on, you can use 404 Page by SeedProd to design and set up your custom 404 page. You can replace your theme’s 404 page entirely and customize your new 404 page completely. You can even use HTML5 and CSS3 for customization, if need be.

The background image can be stretched to cover the entire browser and the plugin supports multiple sites as well as BuddyPress.

404 page by SeedProd installed

With the premium version, you can capture leads by tapping into the email information. The information can be stored in your WordPress database, and be exported to any email service provider. MailChimp, Aweber, Get Response, Constant Contact and Campaign Monitor are integrated, as well as Google and Typekit Fonts.

Embed videos simply by typing URL, enable Gravity Forms and collect visitor information with this plugin. Visitors can continue the search for the page they were looking for within your website.

The cost for the licenses ranges between $29 for use on one site for one year, to $199 for unlimited sites for a lifetime. The purchase is backed by a money back guarantee.

All 404 Redirect to Homepage

All 404 Redirect to Homepage will redirect all the 404 error links to the homepage using the SEO 301 redirection – this redirect tells the visitor that the page has been moved permanently. You can also redirect it to any customized page.

All 404 Redirect to homepage installed

It is a simple plugin where you have to enable the redirection status, fill in the URL of the page to which 404 is to be redirected. And once you click on the update button, the settings will be saved in the database.

404 to 301

404 to 301 works almost like the previous plugin, redirecting all 404 errors to any page you set using 301, 304 or 307 redirects. These numbers indicate whether the page has been moved temporarily or permanently. After you install this plugin, you will find that your webmaster tool dashboard will almost always report Nil errors.

404 to 301

You can choose to monitor errors and you can also choose to enable email notifications on 404 errors. If you simply want to monitor or maintain a log, you can disable the Redirect option. The plugin is lightweight, translation ready and totally free to use, with lifetime updates. Developers and other users can access the plugin on GitHub.

Custom 404 Pro

You can use Custom 404 Pro to replace the default 404 error page with a custom page that you can make make within the Pages section of your Admin Panel. Or you can simply specify a complete URL to redirect 404.

Custom 404 Pro installed

404 data can be recorded as well as the keywords that landed the visitor on the 404 page. Support for this plugin is available on GitHub.

Redirection

Redirection helps you keep track of 404 errors using 301 redirect. It is a popular plugin on WordPress repository, with over 500,000 active installs. You can redirect all the URLs, not just the error pages. It is particularly helpful if you are moving your website or changing the directory of your WordPress installation.

Redirection installed full page

The plugin monitors 404 errors and maintains full logs. You can also set it up so some URLs are allowed to go through to another page, or file or website. You can set up different redirect based on login status, redirect to random pages or based on referrers.

The plugin will automatically add a 301 redirect when a post’s URL is changed. This can also be done manually. It works fully inside your WordPress site and .htaccess is not needed. From the log you can check who tried to login and how many attempts at login were made.

Google 404

Google 404 is not really a WordPress plugin. It is just an extended 404 page script from Google.

Google 404 header

It embeds a search box in your 404 page, so a visitor is prompted to continue the search within your website. Useful information relating to the search word used by the visitor can be placed here. Or you can help the visitor in other ways to find the information they are looking for.

For the plugin to be fully effective, Google requires that you submit an XML map of your WordPress site and set up a Google webmaster account.

SEO Redirection Plugin

While building the SEO Redirection Plugin, the authors have focused on keeping it simple for all user levels and you can see this in the way the plugin works. An advanced control panel helps you to control all the things that the plugin can do.

SEO Redirection Installed

You can monitor the 404 error pages and redirect them all with one click. 301, 302 or 307 redirection is possible, and so is wild card redirection. Entire folder contents can be redirected by changing the folder settings in the redirection tab. A redirection history can be maintained.

To redirect any post, you can fill in the full URL and the destination folder and click Add. Or you can edit the destination URL in the post or edit page and click Save. The plugin will also come in handy when you change your domain name or move your site. Note that this plugin will not support multisite installations.

Conclusion

It’s crucial to remain proactive and maintain your website free of 404 errors as much as you can.

1 : Schedule a check in your site data logs to appear up 404 Error Reports.
2 : Assess both external and internal links frequently. Small sites can conduct a check once per month, large websites once every week.
3 : The frequency of assessing will rely on the material of the site, not traffic. Content-heavy sites must check more frequently.

With so many superior plugins available, there’s absolutely no good reason for you to not maintain your links in prime shape. Try them out and maintain your site in top notch condition.

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