404 links are broken links on your website. When users visit those links, instead of seeing the content they need, they will see the “page not found” message. And they will leave your website. How to avoid that and keep users on your website? Find the answers below.
Why are there 404 links?
404 links are usually generated when you:
- Change the URL of the article
- Change the permalink structure on the website
- Or delete existing posts
If you do one of the above, then when users access an article with an old URL, they will see a 404 – Not found error.
Unless you delete the article completely, if you just changed the URL of the article, the article is still there. So those users see the 404 error and they think you deleted the article – while you did not. And they will leave your website.
Impact of 404 links
In addition to causing a bad user experience, 404 links also have bad consequences for SEO. When your website has many 404 links that are not handled, Google will lower your SEO score and therefore, your website will be less likely to be found on Google!
Why are your SEO scores down?
That’s because 404 pages still have a ranking value. When it loses, you lose that value. And therefore, overall ranking of your website is reduced.
That’s not cool when you have a SEO-optimized WordPress theme. Because you should benefit from all the SEO optimizations that the theme has. And those 404 errors hurt your SEO behind your back!
You can track the number and 404 links in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) as shown below:
How to fix 404 links in WordPress
If your website has a lot of 404 links, that means you have changed or deleted too many URLs. In that case, you should:
Monitor 404 links
Before proceeding with the next action, you should monitor 404 links and log them all out. This log helps you know which links are the changed links , which links are broken links so you can perform the right actions.
You can use Google Search Console to track 404 links as shown in the screenshot above. Or you can use the Redirection plugin to track those 404 links in WordPress:
Redirects 404 links to new pages
Once you have logged the 404 link, you will know which link are changed. And you need to redirect users from the broken links to the correct links. So when users access the broken links, they will be redirected to the right articles with the right content they need to search.
To do that, you can use the plugin Redirection mentioned above. It allows you to create redirects for each link you want.
Redirects all 404 links
If the number of your 404 link is not a lot, or 404 links are broken links, their content does not exist anymore. The best way to keep your users away from being confused is to redirect all 404 links to the homepage.
You might think that redirecting to the homepage will still cause users to be confused because they still do not see the content they need. However, redirecting to the homepage in this case is actually good because:
- You really do not have that content anymore
- And instead of displaying an error message to the user that you’re sure they will leave your website, you take them to the homepage, where they can see information about your website and start searching for other useful related information.
- And finally, the homepage will give them information, while the 404 page does not.
To redirect all 404 homepages, use the Better 404 Redirect To Homepage plugin:
This plugin is very simple and easy to use. You just need to install and do not need to perform any further action. It will automatically run for you. No settings!
Having 404 links on a website is a bad thing, for both users and SEO. You need to handle them so that users are not confused and the ranking of the website is not reduced. Please redirect the link that still have content to the new address and broken links to the homepage. It’s the quickest way to make your site both user- and Google-friendly.
Also published on Medium.