http error 404 not found

What Does a 404 Error Mean?

Ah, you’ve clicked on a link or used the WhereGoes redirect checker and received an http error 404 not found. Don’t worry this is quite a common issue. This is the error provided when the web browser cannot find the requested website address. The “404” is the designated HTTP status code for the “Not Found” error. The meaning can differ slightly due to context, but basically, the 404 means the web server cannot find the requested resource whether it is a page or file.

Broken links, also known as dead links, are links on a website that point to a page or file that no longer exists resulting in a 404 error code. Dead links are often a result of linkrot. Linkrot or “link rot” is the web document half-life where over time URLs no longer point to their original resource due to them being relocated or removed entirely.

What is A Broken or Dead Link? - User clicks on a link on Page A which takes them to Page B. Page B no longer exists, thus a 404 error is displayed.

What Causes a 404 Error?

404 errors can happen for various reasons:

  1. The page or file was deleted and no longer exists. Broken links are often the result of linkrot.
  2. The web page’s address or filename changed and the owner of the website did not create a 301 redirect to forward you to the new address.
  3. If the URL was typed in manually, you have misspelled the real address and thus the destination doesn’t exist.
  4. If a website is using WordPress, there may be an issue with the permalinks (pretty links) in the database.
  5. If a link redirects to another link, but the destination URL address no longer exists.
  6. The domain name system (DNS) cannot resolve to an IP address.
  7. The domain name itself doesn’t exist any longer.

It is best to find your broken links and 404 images before a search engine does. This will help ensure that your search rankings do not suffer as a result.

Scan your site with tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs periodically. If you are actively making changes to the website, then it is inevitable that you will break links at some point. These scheduled SEO audit scans will inform you when you have unknowingly introduced a dead link or referencing external websites that have recently moved or taken down their content resulting in a broken link.

Monitor 404 Errors

It is important to log all of your 404 errors that occur on your site. These logs will help you identify pages that users or bots are accessing but cannot find.

Here’s some great tools to monitor your 404 errors from your WordPress admin panel.

Of course you can always review Google’s free tools.

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics

How to Fix 404 Errors?

Find New URL Location

If you were linking to an article on a website that now 404s or clicked on a broken link from someone else’s website, then don’t fret. The website owner probably changed the URL location and forgot to add in a 301 redirect.

  1. Simply go to google.com and search for “site:website.com” and then title of the article. It would look like this: “site:website.com {title of article}”.
  2. If you do not find the article initially, try the same method again but this time, use other keywords related to the topic.

If you are the website owner, then here’s what you do:

  1. Find the location of the old content. You can use the method mentioned above, “site:website.com {keywords}” to find it on your own site.
  2. Once you have found the location of the new content, you need to create a 301 redirect from the old location to the new location. Doing that will ensure that the next time Google crawls the old URL, it will get forward to the new URL.
  3. You need to update all the content that is linking to the old webpage address to link to the new URL destination. This is important as it will reduce additional work on the server to get your visitors or Google to the end destination.

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