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Fixing and Redirecting 404 Errors, Broken External Links

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

*Update* – I’ve got a new 404 WordPress Plugin that should help you out here as well! Don’t forget to check it out!

Good content is only as good as your reader’s ability to actually read it, right? What happens over time as your blog grows is that things inevitably get “lost” in the shuffle of your growth – perhaps you’ve changed the blog post slugs or optimized some titles recently that may have ultimately changed the URL and link.

Well, that’s good and all but did you make sure that any old historical links didn’t drop to a dead-end? In other words, did you remember to redirect those old link values to the new ones? If not then you’ve got a base case of the 404s!

Not sure what a 404 error is? I explained it all right here as well as creating a custom 404 page template to help your readers. Take a second to review it if you need since you’ve most likely got more than a few 404 errors (and that’s ok, don’t feel so bad).

Essentially the goal here is to capture and fix any broken link that exists both internally and externally from your blog. I’ve covered how to fix internal broken links but now it’s time to capture the external ones as well!

Find Them All!

The first thing you need to do is find your 404 errors that exist on your blog. There are more than a few ways of doing this:

  1. Web Server logs
  2. Custom hosting bundled application
  3. WordPress Plugin
  4. Google Webmasters
  5. Other

It’s really up to you. One of the ways that I like most is using the fourth option: Google Webmasters. Of course you need to set it up for it to work but that takes only a moment and then you should be good to go!

So what we do, then, is first log in to Google Webmasters and click the link Crawl Errors on the left:

Time to do some fixin'!

Then you’ll see a long list of listed 404 errors on your blog. Don’t pay attention to any errors that include any string like ?replytocom= as those are links to your particular comments – no need to fix those.

Ignore...!

What you’re looking for is a raw and direct URL for one of your blog posts and/or pages. Something like these two:

There we go...

Here I found two broken links to two blog posts that had their blog post slugs change historically.

I clicked on the first link to test it and Google Webmasters was right – it was broken!

Sad story.

It obviously goes to my custom 404 page and not the blog post directly. I need to fix this! But before I do I click to see where the bad links are coming from:

Fascinating.

I’m not sure what happysammy.org is but there’s some internal links that are sourcing it as well as my Sitemap for Search Engines. Regardless, I’m going to fix this puppy!

Time to Redirect my 404’s!

There are a number of ways to redirect your 404 errors but if you’re using WordPress I highly recommend using a WordPress Plugin called Redirection.

With this plugin you can quickly create those redirects that you need to keep your search engine rankings high or to fix your modified posts and/or pages. For our example I’ve chosen to add a Modified Post redirect:

Time to do some clean up!

What I then do is I search my own blog for the right post slug for the modified post. I have my own Custom Google Search so I just use that on my sidebar:

Google Custom Search is awesome. Why don't you have it?

Clicking that top link I see the right link in the address bar and the post:

There we go!

So, now all I do is go back into the Redirection plugin and insert the broken URL in the first box and the correct URL in the second, like so:

A little copy and paste...

Click the button Add Redirection and you’re done!

All you have to do now is test the broken URL and it should automatically redirect to the correct URL – check it out: http://john.do/5-things-you-must-do-to-get-your-blog-seo-ready-for-the-new-year/

 

Did it work? Yup. Done and done! I’ve now search engine optimized this blog post to carry PageRank and value to the rest of my blog instead of heading to a lame 404 page!

Schedule, Rinse and Repeat!

Schedule it!

Now that you’ve got this down the most important thing is to create a schedule that’ll remind you to systematically check for 404 errors and broken links.

I have even put on my calendar a very small reminder every single Friday morning to do a quick check. Thankfully it’s not often that I find broken links and 404 errors since I’m very on top of things but in the beginning you might feel pretty overwhelmed to discover so many issues.

That’s ok! Just batch them and commit to fixing a few every day and you’ll eventually get to a point where you’re “all caught up.”

Finally, don’t forget to make sure that you’re not only covered for outside (external) links but also internal links that might be broken!

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]