A couple of days ago when I looked into my Google Webmaster Tools account, I was shocked to see that Adroisys has close to 120 ‘Page Not Found‘ errors listed there. These errors, technically known as 404 errors, are supposed to be a bad thing for your blog (seo wise) if a number of them are encountered frequently.

What exactly is the 404 error?

The 404 error is basically an error thrown by the web server when the requested URL does not correspond to a web page available on the server. For a WordPress blog it may not throw an ugly error page but when it happens it is still bad. The 404 errors occur due to a number of reasons and some of the common causes are the following:

  • The requested page or post URL was wrongly formed or typed
  • The requested post was deleted
  • The post URL was changed to fix typing errors or for SEO optimization
  • The permalink structure was changed
  • The folder stucture of your blog contents was changed
  • Certain disabled features (Global translator plugin, for example) that caused directories to be removed
  • Certain tags and categories were deleted or renamed. The 404 error can also happen when tags/categories were removed from the sitemap recently

How to fix them?

There are a couple of ways to fix this issue depending on how the problem was originated.

Fix #1: If selected permalinks were changed due to SEO optimization of post titles, you could remove those bad/outdated links from the Google Webmaster Tools via Tools => Remove URLs option and making a manual request to Google

Fix #2: If the page not found errors were caused by a subdirectory renaming or global permalink structure change, you could use the 301 redirect to drive the hits to the right target pages. This can be done easily with one of the 301 redirect plugins.

Fix #3: And of course, in case of bad linking/typo from the source, you need to ask those who link to your posts/pages to manually change the URL.

Preventive measures to avoid 404 errors

The following are some of the precautions that one could take in order to avoid bad hits and page not found errors on your blog.

  • Provide the permalinks that one could link back to at the end of the posts
  • Monitor your Google Web Master tools periodically for 404 errors
  • Get notified on page not found errors, via email, using the 404 notifier plugin
  • Be careful while using certain plugins that could modify the link or directory structure
  • Use your temporary tags using SEO plugins such as All-in-one-SEO rather than putting them into the WordPress default tags area
  • Plan well before implementing sub-domain or sub-directory level changes for your blog

I hope this short post was useful to some of you. I would like to know if you already use a 404 plugin for WordPress and if so which is the best one that you have seen around?

Happy blogging and SEO!

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