Resolving the 404 Errors Detected by Google Search Console
Generally 404 errors do not affect your performance in searches, however these broken links can affect annoy users and affect their user experience. In certain cases, broken links can result in lost of revenue since the user is not able to reach your intended landing page.
This how-to guide can be applied on all platforms. For WordPress users, I have additionally written on alternative method using a plugin.
Note: Google Search Console must be already connect with your websites before all those 404 errors are available to you.
How Do Broken Links Come About?
- Typos when you are inputting the URL.
- The URL changed.
- The website or domain no longer exist.
Identify the 404 URLs from Google Search Console
If you are a frequent user of Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster), one of the most useful features is finding out what are the errors identified by Googlebot. To see all the URL errors, from Search Console dashboard, go to Crawl > Crawl Errors.
Search Console can show you up to 1000 URLs that have errors. However there is a little drawback since correcting the 404 error is not exactly that user friendly. In any case, let’s do it.
First, click one of the URL that is having error, for example communications/ as per the image below.
All the next window, you will be presented with two tabs – Error Details & Linked From. Click on the Linked From and you can see all the web pages that contained the broken link. To fix it, you got to manually visit each and every page, and update the link accordingly. Then repeat for all the 404 URLs one by one.
That’s all you need to do to fix those annoying 404 errors from your website. If you own a WordPress blog, the section below is for you.
For WordPress Users Only – Using a Plugin to Fix 404 Errors
For WordPress webmasters, you can fix all these 404 errors quickly and effectively by using a WordPress plugin to do the job.
The plugin that I personally use and recommend is Broken Link Checker.
Within your WordPress dashboard, on the left side navigation bar, go to Plugins > Add New, then search for the plugin to install. After installing and activating the plugin, go to your Plugins dashboard, look for Broken Link Checker, and click on Settings.
There are 5 sections for you to customize your settings. In the General tab, you can control how often you want the links to be checked, and include your email address to be notified when broken links are found. Under the tab Look for Links In, I suggest only ticking the checkboxes for only published posts and pages. For the remaining sections, you can leave it as default for now, and customize further later. Remember to click the SAVE button once all your changes are done.
The plugin will be working in the background to find out all the 404 errors on your blog. Do note that the time required to complete the search is dependent on the size of your blog. You will be able to see all the URL errors under Tools > Broken Links. For illustration purposes, one of 404 errors that I had is actually a typo mistake (see image below). To modify, I just need to Edit URL, and enter in the correct URL, then click on Recheck to make sure that it’s working properly now. Easy right? :)
Another handy feature of the plugin is that you can easily identify where the broken link is located on your web page. To do that click on the link Visit located at the right-hand side (refer screenshot below). The link that is broken will be shown in blue text and strike-out. E.g.
If a link has already changed location, simply provide the new URL, or remove the link totally if the page no longer exists.
Tip: If you have left the default options alone, the plugin will re-check all existing links every 72 hours. Probably you want to reduce the frequency of check as you remove more 404 errors from your WordPress blog. This time interval can be changed via the plugin options, under the General tab.
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