Few things are more frustrating for you and your users than hitting a 404 page. Before you can find and fix 404 errors from your WordPress dashboard, though, it’s important to define and describe what a 404 error is and why it appears.
Whether you call it a “404 page,” “page not found,” or “error page” pages, the definition is the same. 404 error pages are placeholders that appear when a user unsuccessfully tries to navigate to a specific page of your website. Typically, developers build custom 404 pages for sites so the user feels as little interruption to their experience as possible.
That’s because the idea behind this strategy is to encourage visitors to continue their journey by staying on your site. However, very few people take action after landing on a 404 page. Many users will choose to leave the site altogether, which will increase the bounce rate of a site over time.
Not only do 404 pages lead to poor customer experiences and increased bounce rates, but they can also hurt your SEO ranking. With this in mind, it’s easy to see the benefits of finding and fixing 404 errors on your WordPress website.
What Causes 404 Errors?
There are three common reasons why a user will land on a 404 page. Below, we’ll look at these causes and go over a few real-world examples.
First, a 404 page will appear if you’ve deleted a page from your site.
- Example 1: Let’s say you have three products available on your online store, software A, B, and C. Your URL might look like this:
One day, you decide to give up software A and focus on B and C, which means you have to delete the page for product A—however, you forgot to remove the link from your catalog. The next time a user lands on your product page and clicks the link to software A, they will see a 404 page.
404 errors are also used when someone decides to change the path of a page without redirecting the original link.
- Example 2: You decide to merge Software A and Software B into one product called Software D. You also have 2 of the top ten spots on Google for prominent keywords that link to both products.
If you don’t redirect both pages, users will land on a 404 page when they click on these specific links to your site.
This situation will result in a bad experience for your visitors, which will likely cause them to bounce from your website. As your bounce rate increases and traffic decreases, the top Google positions you worked hard to secure will quickly get buried underneath websites that actually lead users to their intended destinations.
The last reason visitors get 404 errors is due to backend typos.
- Example 3: Let’s say you created the aforementioned URL for software A, and you set up an internal link to the page, but when you’re typing in the URL, it looks like this;
The fact that the ‘e’ in the word software is missing means users will not get directed to the correct page when they click your link. The 404 page waiting for them on the other end will not inspire them to check out other parts of your website.
You can avoid this situation by carefully checking URLs before publishing new pages. I also recommend reviewing your pages at least once a quarter for extra accuracy and security.
Now that you understand the definition of a 404 page and how it can impact your website and UX, let’s talk about a solution.
Today, I’ll show you how easy it is to find and fix 404 errors on your site using the WordPress plugin All in One SEO (AIOSEO). AIOSEO comes out of the box with a Redirection Manager that makes it simple for beginners and experts alike to correct broken links by redirecting them to a different destination.
With that out of the way, let’s begin by showing you how to find 404 errors on your website.
Part 1: Finding 404 Errors
After installing and setting up AIOSEO, you’re ready to get started.
Step 1: Navigate to the Redirects Section of AIOSEO
Step 2: Next, scroll down and click ‘Activate Redirects.’
Step 3: Now it’s time to enable logging so AIOSEO can track your 404 pages. On the Redirects menu, click on Settings.
Step 4: Scroll down until you see ‘Logs.’
Make sure your logs are turned on. Check for the blue slider next to ‘404 Logs.’ If this feature is off, the slider will appear white instead of blue.
Step 5: It may take a few minutes for AIOSEO to compile page errors, but once that’s done, you can review the logs at your leisure by clicking on ‘404 Logs’ on the Redirects menu.
After clicking ‘404 Logs’ you’ll see a list of broken pages on your site. In the image above, you can see several 404 errors on this site. There’s also other helpful information, such as how many people visited each page, and when the most recent visitor came to the 404 page.
Part 2: Fixing 404 Errors from WordPress
Okay. Now you’ve looked over your 404 pages it’s time to talk about the solution. I’m happy to tell you that it’s super simple to take errors from your ‘404 Logs’ and redirect them to their appropriate destinations in minutes.
Step 1: From the ‘404 Logs’ tab, choose a link you want to fix. We’re going to go with this one:
Step 2: Click ‘Add Redirect’ on the same line as the error you’d like to correct.
Step 3: A drop-down box will appear below the error. You’ll see one box with the original path titled ‘Source URL’ and another titled ‘Target URL.’
Your goal is to make sure the source URL is the link that needs to be redirected, and the target URL is the destination where you’d like this new link to lead.
So, if we go back to the 2nd example I used earlier, source URLs ‘/Product/Software-A’ and ‘/Product/Software-B’ would both get a target URL of ‘Product/Software-D’.
Step 4: Below the Source URL box, you’ll see a drop-down box titled ‘Redirect Type.’ You need to pick which type of redirect you would like to use. This may vary depending on whether the destination change is intended to be temporary (307 redirect) or permanent (301 redirect).
Choose the redirect type that matches your needs.
Step 5: Click the blue ‘Add Redirect’ button to save your changes.
Step 6: Finally, I suggest testing your redirect by visiting the source URL so you can make sure that you land on your newly added target URL.
As you can see, it’s never been easier to find and fix 404 errors from your WordPress dashboard. Business owners and marketing specialists across all industries need to keep an eye on broken links on their sites. Many advantages come with keeping your online business organized for customers and search engine crawlers.
If your goal is to maintain your SEO strategy, build a better experience for your audience, and encourage people to spend more time engaging with your brand, fixing your 404 pages is an excellent place to start.