In this post I’ll show you how to fix your 404 error pages in WordPress easily, using the tools that are available to you.
WordPress is a wonderful website building tool and so easy to use. I cannot imagine myself building websites with anything other than WordPress.
Creating content using WordPress is one of my favorite things to do, especially with the variety of tools and services you can use these days to make your content truly stand out.
One small problem, though, when you remove content from your WordPress site, you generate a 404 error page, which can be annoying.
In this post, I want to show you how to do something very important for your WordPress website. I want to show you how to fix those dreaded 404 error page not found.
I despise them, personally, and whenever I find one on my website I immediately take action to fix it.
What are 404 Error pages anyhow?
If you’re completely new to all of this, let me explain using very simple words what a 404 error page is.
It is simply a page that has no existence on your site.
OK, let’s say you have a lot of posts, pages, tags, categories, etc on your WordPress website.
And, let’s say a day comes along when you decide to delete a few of those pages, along with some unwanted tags, categories, and heck, maybe a few blog posts as well.
Now, what happens when someone visits a page, post, category or tag you deleted?
They see a page with the message: 404 Error Page Not Found.
Because you removed/deleted that destination URL, therefore the page they’re looking for no longer exists, so instead your visitors will see a generated 404 error page. Like this one…
That being said, you have to remember that just because you deleted the URL from your WordPress website, it doesn’t mean that no one will ever try to access it again.
You may have both internal and external links pointing to the URL you deleted.
Are 404’s bad for your website?
No, they are not bad for your website, however, they can create a bad user experience, so you have to fix them.
There are other reasons why a user might see an error 404 page not found on your website. An example would be if a user has clicked on a site link that has been spelled incorrectly.
Or perhaps you’ve recently changed the domain name of your website, or you’ve made some changes to your permalink structure.
404 Error pages and search engines
There are some mixed debates about whether 404’s actually affect search engine rankings or not.
Personally, I don’t know, however, there is an interesting post over on the Moz Blog about 404 pages and SEO. You should check it out when you get some time.
Regardless whether 404’s are good or bad for SEO like I said earlier, they can create a bad user experience on your site, and that my friends, Google does not like.
Google wants to see that you care about your website, and moreover, care about what your visitors are experiencing when exploring your content.
If your blog or website ‘is your business’, I don’t think you want too many of your website users bouncing away because you have too many error pages on your site. That to me is being careless as a site owner.
Fix your 404 error pages, and I will show you how to do just that next, the simplest way ever.
Fixing your 404 Errors in WordPress using 301 Redirection
One way to fix your error pages is to use 301 redirection.
OK, let me explain real quick.
When someone visit’s a page that is no longer available on your website, they’ll be redirected to another page via something called 301 redirection.
This could be another page on your site that is somewhat relevant to the old page you deleted. Maybe a blog post on a similar topic perhaps.
To make 301 redirections really easy for myself, I like to use a good old-fashioned plugin.
In my opinion, there are only 3 plugins you should really care about for 301 redirections, here they are –
Better Links Pro – This is a very powerful premium affiliate masking/redirection plugin, and one that I’ve been using myself since 2012. I use Better Links Pro mainly to create 301 redirection for my affiliate links, however, it can be used to fix your 404’s too. Check out my review of Better Links Pro here.
Pretty Link – This is another fantastic plugin perfect for redirecting ugly links and making them no-follow such as affiliate links, long URL’s on your page that you want to shorten etc.
Redirection – Last but not least is this one. Redirection is a popular redirection plugin that I would recommend using. I use this very plugin to redirect all my 404 error pages. This is the plugin that I’ll be showing you how to use to fix your 404 error pages below.
If you have the Redirection plugin already installed on your WordPress site, you’re ready to roll.
If you haven’t got this installed yet, get it installed!
OK, let’s begin.
Step One: Finding 404 Errors in Google Webmaster
Open a new tab in your web browser and navigate to your Google Webmaster account.
Then click on the respective domain name who’s 404 error pages you want to analyze and fix.
Next, click on Crawl > Crawl Errors, and then click on the Not Found tab as shown below.
In the Not Found tab, you’ll see a list of all the pages within your domain that are returning as 404 error page not found. In the image above you will see it says I have 13 page-errors.
Next, click on any one of those URL’s in the list and a pop-up box will appear displaying all the information you need to know about that URL’s error page.
The Error Details tab shows when Google last crawled this page, and when the error was first detected.
The Linked From tab shows which external and internal pages are linking back to this redundant page. See image below.
So, whatever URL you selected, the next step is to click on it yourself, to ensure that it is actually a 404 error page and not a false alarm.
Fixing 404 errors in your WordPress site
Once you’ve validated the URL is, in fact, an error, head back to your WordPress site dashboard and go to Tools > Redirection. Click on the 404’s as shown below.
You should notice that the Source URL in the 404 log is similar to the one in your Google Webmasters error page report. The one you just clicked on.
All the error 404 pages that you click on is recorded here in real-time. You should recognize the one you just clicked on quickly.
Now let’s fix this 404 error and redirect the old URL to another suitable active URL.
Click on Redirects to add a new one. See image below.
Now add the redundant URL into the Source URL box.
Then add the active URL of the page you want the redundant URL to be redirected to into the Target URL box, and hit Add Redirection.
It’s that easy peeps!
You can view the 301 redirections you’ve created on the same page, Redirects. See image below.
Here you can manage and see how many hits the URL is receiving, toggle or move to another group or folder.
Should you wish to delete a redirect in the future, perhaps because it’s no longer getting any hits or you no longer need it to be redirected, then you can do so with a single click.
Marking as “fixed” in Google Webmaster Tools
You’re not finished yet, head back to your Google webmaster tools account, and mark the 404 error page URL you’ve just created a redirection as “fixed”. See image below.
That’s pretty much it. That’s how you fix 404 error page not found on your WordPress website, all without losing your mind.
Of course, all we’ve done here is fix one single error. If you have many errors, then as you can imagine this process will take some time to do. However, it’s worth the time if you’re passionate about creating a more user-friendly website.
In addition to this tutorial, I created a simple video tutorial showing you how to fix error pages in more detail should you want to check it out. You can find it here on my YouTube channel. Or watch it below.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’m always here to help.
Best of luck!