In this post, I’ll show you how to easily fix your 404 error pages in WordPress using free tools.
WordPress is a undoubtably ‘the best’ website building tool.
Some may debate that, but that’s my opinion.
I could not imagine myself building websites with anything else other than WordPress.
Creating content with WordPress is one of my favorite things to do, especially now that we have a complete variety of tools and services at our disposal to make our content truly stand out.
Yep, creating conte in WordPress is awesome, but what happens when we decide to remove content from our WordPress websites?
Oh yes, we generate a nice unwanted 404 error page.
Well, fret no more. Because in this post, I’m going to show you how to do something very important for your WordPress website.
I will show you how to fix those dreaded 404 error page not found once and for all.
No one likes you Mr 404 Error Page!
That’s right, no one likes seeing 404 error pages.
Personally, I despise them, and whenever I find one on my website I take immediate action to fix it.
What are 404 Error pages anyway?
Just in case you’re completely new to all of this.
If you’re unsure what a 404 error page is, let me explain quickly.
A 404 Error Page is a default message page, telling the user that the page they’re looking for no longer exists.
How are 404 Error pages created?
OK, so 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 in the process.
Now, what happens when someone visits a page, post, category or tag you deleted?
That’s right, they see a page with the message: 404 Error Page Not Found as I mentioned earlier.
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…
OK, so that’s fine then, no problem, right?
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, and that is now a 404 Error page.
So, 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 a 404 error 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.
What about search engines, will I get penalized by Google?
There are some mixed debates about whether 404’s actually affect search engine rankings or not.
Or, whether you might receive a penalty from Google.
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.
So, if your blog or website ‘is your business’, then I don’t think you would want too many of your website users bouncing away because you have too many error pages on your site, right?
So the cure is?
You’ve guessed it. 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.
301 Redirection is set up so that when someone visit’s a page that is no longer available on your website, they’ll be redirected to another page.
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.
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 – BTP is an affiliate masking/redirection plugin, and one that I’ve been using myself since 2012. I use Better Links Pro mainly to create 301 redirections 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 and 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, then download it and get it installed!
OK, let’s begin.
Step One: Finding 404 Errors in Google Webmaster
I’m going to assume you have a Google Webmaster Account.
So, 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 for Desktop, 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 on 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, right?
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!
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.
Now, 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-to-follow video tutorial showing you how to fix error pages in more detail should you want to check it out below.
You can also 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!