Blogs change all the time. You add new pages and delete some posts, change page titles, ect. Every time the URL changes, the old URL becomes “Not Found”, especially if your site has a lot of links into it. People will be searching for a page and they will come to a “404 error, page not found”. Chances are when they hit that page, your viewer will leave your site, and OF COURSE, YOU DON’T WANT THAT! These errors also affect your SEO, everytime the bot finds a “not found” page from a link, you lose that link juice and any value that page would have given you there.
There are 2 ways to combat your “Not Found” errors. First is with a custom redirect, the other is with a custom 404 page.
The first thing you will need to do is sign-up with Google webmaster tools if you haven’t already. Submit a sitemap, wait a week or 2, and Google will start to pick up and show you your “not found” pages.
To find your “not found” errors in Google Webmaster Tools, first navigate to the site in your account that you want to investigate.
Then on the left menu bar click CRAWL >> CRAWL ERRORS
In there you will be able to see your “not found” errors.
You’ll want to start addressing the list of errors in Google webmaster tools. First click on the error to see where it’s coming from. If it has some crazy characters in the web address, chances are, you’ll be able to fix the link and wont even need the redirect. Here’s an example.
With this I saw that my messy link was linked from these pages within the site, the top being the initial page it’s linked from. I went to that page, found the link, and was able to edit and fix this error (I had a space in the URL)
So next there are the “not found” errors from the pages that don’t exist anymore. Here’s an example from my site. In an older version of the site my recipe landing page was /recipes/ in the new version of my site, that same page is now /category/recipes/ and I can’t go back to the pages it is finding the links from to correct it. Now it’s time to use a 301 Redirect.
So to add this redirect to your site you can do it a couple of ways. The hardest s to write a custom .htaccess file. This can get REALLY COMPLICATED and if it’s not done right can crash your whole site. I do not recommend doing this unless you have help or have done it before. But you’re in luck, If you are using WordPress there’s a GREAT plugin for this, Simple 301 Redirects. If you are in Blogger, they have made it easy for you as well. Here is the blogger tutorial on adding a custom 301 redirect: Custom Redirects.
I’m a wordpress girl, so I’ll show you how I added the 301 Redirect with the plugin. (once you install the plugin, it will be under your settings)
Keep checking back in Google Webmasters tools for the not found errors, everyday new pages are crawled, so there’s always a possibility a new error will pop up.
There will also always be errors that can not be fixed, so to help save that traffic I suggest using a
Custom 404 Page
A custom 404 page provides the user with more information about your site, beyond the error message they received. It’s helpful here to make it clear to the user how they can find the content they were looking for. For wordpress, there’s a good chance your theme has a custom 404 page. The file name would be 404.php. If you feel comfortable with coding you can edit that file to contain more information and direct users to where they should go. If you want to edit the code yourself, here’s a great how-to from wordpress on How to Add a Custom 404 Page.
In wordpress there’s also plugins that will assist you in the creation. For example: Custom 404 Error Page: Unilimited designs and colors.
If you are in blogger here is a tutorial on how to add a custom 404 page to your blog. Custom Page Not Found
Some tips for designing your custom 404 page
- Humor always works… start off with something funny about receiving an error
- Make sure you direct the user to where they should go, ex: homepage, contact, categories
- Use this page to sell, promote your products or shop here
- Make it clear and concise
Hope you found this article useful! and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments. I’m happy to answer. Also, for all you wordpress bloggers out there, I offer wordpress coaching, drop me a line if you are interested!