How to avoid having 404 errors on your web pages

Dead pages, bad links, 404 errors, whatever you wish to call them are great ways to increase your bounce rate, decrease your online revenues and just make you look sloppy. Having no control over your website might be the cause for such mistakes. Proper redirection and linking are simple guidelines that ‘welcome’ your visitors while not doing these simple tasks could turn your visitors away –permanently. There are many reasons a site would have 404 errors that come from server requests. It might be from a rewritten URL where the folders might have changed and certain internal pages weren’t updated with the rewritten file. Another reason could be that a link on your site was wrong or the link’s page might have been removed from the site. Instances like this requests a page that doesn’t exist so the web server sends a page that simply displays “404 Page not found”. Here are a few suggestions to avoid typical 404’s:

  • Google Webmaster Tools can be a huge help in scanning your website for dead pages, broken links etc. In the crawl section you’re able to find details on the pages that are classified as unreachable and detected to have broken links pointing from other websites.
  • Submit XML sitemaps to webmasters. This is recommended after the search engine spiders crawl through your servers to find any issues with your web pages. This is just another way to clean out your website.
  • It’s highly recommended to have custom 404 pages built for your site. If custom, the pages are able to inform your visitors that not only are the web pages non-existent, they could also navigate them to find the rightful page they were initially looking for. Custom 404 has the analytical tracking code embedded in to the footer of the page template just like how all pages do. Having custom 404 pages with tracking codes can make your life easier by tracking which 404 errors were indexed in search engines as well as the ones coming from referring sites. From the content section of the webmaster tools, you can filter out the 404 pages and perform a reverse path research to find out exactly where the referring source comes from as well as the keywords and phrases that would cause the 404. This is very useful to track down on recent 404’s of a search engine listing and hopefully you could repair it before you lose the listing.

Follow the above guidelines, and you’ll see your website significantly reduce the number of 404 errors.