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.]

  • Dewitt Robinson

    Thanks for this John. I recently updated my slugs- huge plus!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sweet!

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

    How long does it take for the Crawl Errors to disappear from Webmaster tools?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      Google says….

      “These errors will naturally disappear from your Webmaster Tools account after awhile, as we stop crawling pages that repeatedly return 404. As long as the ‘Last found’ date is staying the same, you no longer need to worry about these errors in your report. Note that submitting a URL removal request will not remove these errors from your report. The URL removal tool removes URLs from Google’s search results, it does not remove errors from your Webmaster Tools account.”

      :)

  • http://chris@chrisrouse.us Chis Rouse

    What’s your suggestion on the 404 errors showing up for deleted tags? Is there a secret way to purge that data or do you just leave those alone and let them go to the 404 page automatically?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      redirect them your homepage.

      • Chris

        John,

        Should I re-direct them to my homepage too? Nearly all of my crawl errors are from categories and/or pages that I created, and then later decided to delete.

        Thanks bra

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          sure. that’s a good idea.

  • http://randrambles.com Rand

    Oh wow, this is very helpful. With the amount of links I see on mine it looks like this will be quite the project.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      but one that is worth doing…!

  • http://jeansandtie.com Jacob K. Bluhm

    Okay, I’ve have followed your blog like a blueprint and have produced great results. If no one has suggested you put this into a book then let me be the first. Publish this! I understand that it’s best to publish online for something that is created online, but I see an excellent manual that needs to be published and on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. I will buy your first copy.

    • http://noahsdad.com Rick Smith

      Jacob,

      I agree. I’ve told him that several times!

      Great stuff. I don’t think anyone else breaks things down in the user friendly way that John does.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks jacob! i’ve definitely thought about it… and plan on it at some point….!

  • http://blog.nalates.net Nalates Urriah

    I get and error with WP 3.2.1

    Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in D:\Hosting\4591565\html\nalates\wp-content\plugins\tentblogger-404-repair\plugin.php on line 131

    I suspect the problem was a URL from a post where I used a ’ in a title that makes it into the slug.

    So, how do I clear this error?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sounds like a permissions issue via your server.

  • http://deivampmohanraj.blogspot.com/ Mohanraj

    My blogger Name is http://deivampmohanraj.blogspot.com/

    Past seven months its working nice but past 7 days there is no viewers and i got confused while i checked in Google search engine my blogger url not shown (before that many post can viewed in Google search engine).

    and i also registered in web master tool and Google analytical also.

    —————————-
    I got answer for above thing due to change blogger URL name

    i renamed My blog http://deivampmohanraj.blogspt.com/ to deivampmohanraj.com in blogger setting –> Publishing

    (to know/check about the domain is available or not in Google)

    but until now i not yet registered or renamed……

    —————————————
    What shall i do (Blogger Top Contributor) whether

    1. i want to go
    Renaming Your Blog Is Easy Enough – Doing It Properly Takes Planning(Web)
    blogging.nitecruzr.net

    article (i think it would take to complete 4 to 6 Months)

    or

    2.Shall i change my domain to http://deivampmohanraj.
    blogspt.com/ to deivampmohanraj.com (after that Google will identify my domain in search engine)

    or

    3.Blogger Top Contributor ideas….

    (Note: I need Again My all blogger post article – Publish in Google search engine )

    ————————————————–

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      have you completed the post?

  • http://benrwoodard.com Ben

    Hey Don’t forget to add your new plugin (http://tentglogger.com/404-plugin/) to the post. ;) I’ve used it on several clients sites. It works great while being very simple.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure thing! thanks!

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Daniel

    Fantastic tutorial, John.

    I just have one question.

    I am actually on Blogger with a custom domain(Through enom) and at present I have some posts appearing in the search results with the ” page not found” message. Basically, The slugs were changed and the old(dead link url’s) are being ranked, not the new (slugs redone) url’s. So I have bee trying to point visitors(browsers) from the “Page not found” links, to the correct(the updated) pages.

    Somewhere between editing and rewriting the posts(and changing the slugs) the broken links were being ranked(and rising) not my actual posts(due to all the link juice, and build up search engine ranking–time factor).

    So, just wondering how I should go about doing something similar(or alternative) to the above instructions.

    Note: Have gone through plenty of websites, forums, google help, etc. The only thing I have been told is “Use a htaccess” or ” use a blogger redirect plugin” .

    In Enom, I can only redirect(from what I saw) the entire website). I entered different redirect methods—as written on many sites—enom states ” url not written correctly. It shows an example of a site url eg: mysite.com –as what should be written. So entering a page(post) url(slug) returns an error message. As far as a Blogger redirect plugin, again, this option seems to be only for redirecting(Migrating) the entire site. eg: Blogger to WordPress.

    If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated,

    Daniel.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      what about moving to wordpress…?

  • http://www.centsibleinseattle.net Sia Hills

    Thanks for this article John, your blog is my go to spot when I have a question :) Love how clearly you write.

    Set up webmaster tools per your instructions. Had well over 1000 web crawl errors, so installed the recommended redirect plugin. Worked like charm, thanks!

    Now that I am working on redirecting them all I am noticing that many are broken because the have an .html at the end of the link. I was just wondering if you might have any suggestions on why that is happening, and if you have written an article on how to prevent it in the first place. In anycase, thanks so much for info!

  • http://montreal.inseoservices.com IN SEO Services

    Thank you very much for 404 redirect tip, i changed 13 404 errors and its word like a charm.

    Francisco

  • http://www.churchpunk.com Chris Walker

    I have used the redirection plugin before without any issue. I am working on a new blog and yesterday I discovered a strange bug with the plugin. If I activate the plugin, while logged into WordPress, the site only loads the header. If logged out it loads fine. I am running the latest version of Standard Theme. I am curious if you have seen any issues like this before.

  • http://markatlarge.com mark jennings

    MY 404 erros primarily come from one page. It takes the permalink page name and typically adds a tags from an entirely different page. Not knowing what to do I deleted the offending premalink page and that didn’t seem to help. Is there anything I can do to permanently solve the problem.

    Exapmle Permailink.com/tagfromunrelatedpage.

    On another note. Someone might think about developing a plug in that you can upload all the redirection in with a Excel Spreadsheet. It would save a lot of time to do a big mass change.

  • Jason

    Thank you so much for your blog. I’ve been subscribed to the rss feed for a long, long time.

    After following all of your webmaster tools suggestions, I found 20,000 crawl errors… mostly from removing the Global Translator plugin. I am working through them now and also used some redirects with the .htaccess file.

    • http://john.do/ John Saddington

      yikes! better get those fixed!

  • http://gravatar.com/mmprop Tina Ray

    THANK YOU for suggesting Redirection! It is so incredibly easy to follow the steps you’ve laid out here. Thanks for the help to a n00b like me. :)