404 Error pages – how to face them fearlessly

by Michael · 2 comments

It was a fine morning and I was having a great time with my dog – Neptune. The world seemed to be perfect and then I decided to check the status of my website by login to Google Webmaster tools and lol, seemed like the world started crumbling down to pieces. 10,000 errors I found. That was worst than a horror movie and being an SEOer by profession I was completely aware of the fact that I need to fix them as fast I can. So, I took my gloves off and warming up myself for some serious actions. But before I tell you straight what course of actions I took, I need to tell you first what cause 404 errors.

Common Causes of 404 Errors: When a page is requested by a visitors and the page is not available, the server return 404 response code. Probably the requested URL has been deleted or the user might have done some mistakes while typing and for that reason the server is returning a custom 404 error page.

Now, this can create several problems for your website. Apart from adversely affecting the health of the website, too many error pages may lead to poor users experience. People will bump on those pages and eventually bounce back failing to locate what they were looking for.

So, hopefully you have got the gravity of the situation. So time to pull on your socks and fix the issues that causes that monstrous number of error pages –

Malformed URLs: You may come across some pages that have existed on your website. Now, do not panic. You can still figure out what went wrong. All you got to do is to open Google Webmaster Tools, Click on the “Health Tab” and then go to “Crawl Error” section. There you will find list of error pages. Click on any of them and a dialogue box will pop up. Now click on “Linked From” page and you will get list of URLs from where these non-existing URLs are generating.

Now, open a URL where Googlebot has located the link reference of your website. Find the source code and make a search for your website. Most probably you will find a link reference where the following parameter – “http://” is missing. Make a request to the webmaster to fix this issue and you are good.

What about the Tag pages: Most bloggers start their blogging career, they rarely give two hoots to SEO and for that reason they do not mind the pages generating via tags. But once they started gaining exposure and learning the tid-bits of SEO, realization dawn on them that these tag pages are not adding value to their website and then determined to get rid of them. This is exactly where the problem creeps in. Since the tag pages will no longer be available, pages linked to them will them start showing 404 error pages. But this can be fixed easily. All you got to do is to remove the link reference whenever possible and if this is not feasible, you just need to do a 301 redirection.

You renamed it Man: It is quite common with bloggers to rename the article even after the post goes live. Now they are rarely aware of the vicious fact that when they are changing the name of the post, sometimes the URL of the post also got changed. Now, this makes the old page go offline and all the link reference to that post start showing 404 error page in Google Webmaster tools. A 301 redirecting from the old page to the new page will fix this issue.

Sitemap Error: Sometimes, all your pains have a single place of origin and it is the Sitemap. Though the purpose of the sitemap is to make search engines aware of the existence of pages that are otherwise hard to locate, it may contain pages that may not even exist in reality. Check for any errors that your sitemap may contain by login to Google Webmaster tool. Go to “Optimization” and then click on “Sitemaps”. There will see some errors that you need to fix immediately.

Server Errors: Sometimes, it can happen that a page gets redirected to a page with following parameter – “https//” and sadly enough the page is removed from the data base. In this case, the page will be returning 500 server response code. Again a simple 301 redirection will fix this.

Michael Evans is a passionate writer and he is associated with chesterfield-group.com that helps in Offshore Company Formation

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fabrizio November 7, 2012 at 12:51 am

Michael another great post mate. After reading I went straight into my Google Webmaster tools and saw around 700 404’s and started to work on the immediately. Thanks for the tips and suggestions in your post.
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Linda December 3, 2012 at 3:06 am

I saw so many 404 Error pages on my website the past several days. I realized that some how the script I have been using successfully for a couple years to mask my urls was GONE!! I had problems earlier in the week with something else and it must have taken this down as well.

So, now I have been going back through all my auto responder messages all the links I have on my sites and now to find my ebooks that are on Amazon and just make sure my new links match. It’s taking me a very long time and I am sure I am missing quite a bit as 2+ years of using it, really ads up.

At least we know how to fix it and I am always checking my health at Google and my error logs.

And 301 Redirects I have been trying to configure as well.

Nice post!!

Linda
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