How to prevent and correct the 404 Error

Everyone, including you, has experienced the dreaded 404 error “page not found” response at least one time during web browsing or research endeavors. Just about everyone has gotten a big “404 file or directory not found” or some other response that was other than what the person needed to see.

If you’ve been through it, you can imagine how disheartening it is to find out that the crucial information you need isn’t there.

Now, think of yourself as the webmaster or business owner. How will your site visitors feel about a 404 redirect? Many of them will not visit your site again if they can’t get what they need the first time.

For that reason, it’s crucial for you to understand the 411 about http status 404. Knowing how to deal with the problem can literally save your business.

What Is A 404 Error?

If you are asking, “What is 404,” then you have probably experienced it or heard the complaint of someone who experienced it on your site. It’s a page that comes up when the server cannot find what the visitor is looking for.

There are many reasons that one may get a 404 not found error, and there’s a variety of different error 404 not found pages that may show up.

You can personalize your error pages once you find out why they are coming up and how you can stop the confusion.

Why the 404 Error Page Shows Up

The http 404 page may come up for a number of reasons, but the top few are as follows:

Wrong URL:

One of the most common reasons that a person gets a 404 error is an actual user error. The individual types the wrong URL into the address bar, so the servers end up scratching their heads because the source is non-existent.

If Someone has received an error while he or she was on your website, you may want to check the difficulty of the link. It’s quite possible that your page has an address that is too easy to mistype or too similar to something else. Check to ensure that you didn’t name the page in a confusing manner.

Renamed Page:

Page renames are another common reason for 404 errors. You may have felt that a name change was appropriate or necessary at the time. However, everyone who saved a bookmark with that old address is going to get an error unless you do something to compensate for the change.

Deleted Files:

If you’ve ever gone on a rampage and deleted files as a website owner, your deletions may be your very problem. The server is looking for something that is no longer there because you wiped it out of cyberspace.

Page Relocation:

Your visitors will get an error page if you moved a page or a file, as well. Relocations are some of the most common issues.

Coding Issues:

Your problem may go deeper than a simple deleted file or a quick movement. You may have some internal coding issues that are causing your site to return 404 errors at the most inopportune times. You’ve got to find out what the error is and fix it so that you can have fruitful search results, and people can find your page, visit it, and then praise your brand for being informative and educational.

Finding your 404’s

cartoon blue sky with red stop sign that says 404

In WordPress, you can install a Broken Link Finder Plugin.  Once installed and activated, find the left sidebar and look for the broken links section under tools. This will now indicate when you have broken links. You may also see these in your dashboard when you log in to your admin panel.

SEMrush is a great tool for overall website health. Running regular site audits can make you aware of any technical SEO errors or warnings such as broken internal links, external links, mixed content, broken images, duplicate content and so much more.

If you have set up your Google Search Console (which is highly recommended), you’ll receive warnings anytime there are a significant amount of 404 errors.

There are many other free and paid solutions available for finding 404 errors. Head over to Google and find a solution that works for you.

How to Diagnose a 404 Error

There are a couple of ways that you can approach the subject of the 404 problem. You could just do the process of elimination. For example, you can quickly find out if you named something improperly or deleted it and move on if you find that that’s not the case.

Keep trying to diagnose the problem by performing an action and then seeing if the 404 comes up. Document it and then move on to the next possible cause of conflict. Checking your codes and configurations should be the last thing you do because it can be the trickiest.

How to Fix the 404 Error

You can fix the errors by filling in missing pages, correcting coding issues and making sure that your URLs are simple and easy to type.

You’ll still need a 404 page for when visitors type things improperly, however. That being said, you can create your own 404 page that can have the jargon and images that will keep your visitors on your website.

When you find 404 errors, you’ll want to change the broken URL to a current URL or 410 the link so that it disappears from Google’s index.

Tips for Developing the Best 404 page Ever

Lori Ballen is saying "Well, That's Odd"If you’re a whiz with code, you know how to open up a word processor and code yourself a fantastic 404 page for your visitors. After you’re done creating the page, you just need to use an FTP client to put it where it belongs, which is the .htaccess area. Test your page to make sure that you’ve done it correctly.

If you are using WordPress, consider adding a 404 Plugin to select an existing page on your website or customize your own.

When you make your custom page, you should use as much text as possible to explain to the visitors what they can do to stay on track. Using humor is the best way to keep people on your website.

Links will help those visitors to navigate to a different area of your page instead of leaving the site altogether and finding the information elsewhere. The last tip is to keep the page lively.

Use vibrant colors and exciting pictures.

Create an inviting environment that says,”Yes, we can’t find this page right now, but if you click here, we can take you to a page that’s even more fun.”

Now you know a little bit more about the 404 error and some of the things that you can do to make it better for your visitors and your rankings. Make sure you increase your visibility and your functionality by using tools such as Google analytics, webmaster tools and more. Additionally, you can have a professional SEO specialist look at it and identify your weak and strong points. Start taking care of your missing links and imperfections today.

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