How To Find & Fix 404 Errors

Two of the most annoying things you can come across while surfing the web are slow pages and missing pages. Both are highly likely to send you right back to the results page, in search of a better, more reliable website. 

As a website owner, you want to ensure you have no 404 error pages, and that both your internal and external links are in good working order. Here is how you can easily find and fix all 404 errors: 

What Are 404 Errors?

A 404 error code means that the page you are looking for can’t be found on the server. It may have been moved or deleted, or it may temporarily be down. In short: you aren’t able to access it right now. 

How to Find All 404 Pages On Your Website

Finding all the 404 pages on your website is important for both user experience and SEO. You want to ensure that both crawlers and humans find exactly what they are looking for whenever they visit your website. 

Here are 4 ways to locate all 404 missing pages: 

Find 404s With Link Whisper

Link Whisper can help you find all the 404 pages on your website, whether they are internal or external. 

All you have to do is install the plugin, available for both WordPress and Shopify.

Note that only our Premium version lets you check for broken links and 404s.

Log into the backend of your website, and click on the Link Whisper Dashboard. Here you will see the Link Stats overview, showing you the current state of all your links. If there are any broken links of 404 pages on the website, they will be listed here. 

link whisper link stats

You can also click on the Error Report and see more detailed information about every issue. It will tell you which posts have broken URLs and what their status is, and you’ll easily be able to find them on the page, as you’ll also be shown the sentence the link is featured in. 

The best thing about Link Whisper is that you don’t have to do anything manually. The plugin does all the hard work for you, and pinpoints 404 error pages with ease. 

error report in link whisper

As you can see, our own website has no 404s – thanks to Link Whisper. 

Check for 404s in Google Search Console

You can also check for 404 errors in your Google Search Console (which you should already have installed on your website). 

Simply open the Search Console, then navigate to the Pages tab, located in the Indexing section on the left side of your screen. If you have any 404 pages, they will be listed under “Why pages aren’t indexed”. You’re looking for an error called “Not found (404)”. 

The thing about Search Console is that it’s not actually accurate. You may have a 404 page on your website Google knows nothing about, because it hasn’t crawled it yet. 

While you should definitely be checking your Search Console Pages report on a regular basis, to see how Google is indexing your pages and why some of them may currently be excluded, don’t rely on it for finding 404s, as it does not show real-time results. 

404s in search console example

Crawl Your Website With an SEO Spider

Screaming Frog or any other SEO spider can also help you find the 404 error pages on your website. 

You will need to run a website crawl (which may take a long time, depending on how many pages you have). Once that’s done, check the report on the right. Any 404 errors will be listed in the Response Codes section, under “Client error (4xx)”. 

When you click on this tab, you will be shown all the pages that have a 4xx status code, including all the 404 pages. You can filter them out by using the status code filter. 

screaming frog 404 example

Screaming Frog is very accurate and you will be shown real-time results. You may be a bit overwhelmed with the amount of data you see though, especially if you’re not well-versed in SEO. The 404s won’t be prioritized in any way either, so you will need to use your own judgment to choose which ones to fix first. 

Scan Your Website With an SEO Tool

If you are already using Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can scan your website for 404s there. 

As we’re Ahrefs users, here’s the breakdown of the process using their tool. 

Run a site audit for your website. Depending on its size, it may take quite a while. Once the scan is complete, you will be shown an overview of all the errors uncovered. 

404 pages will be listed high up in the report, as Ahrefs considers them important and urgent. 

ahrefs site audit example

When you click on the “404 page” tab, you’ll be shown what the 404s are, where they were first found, whether or not they are indexable, and how many internal links they have. You can also access more information about these pages via the “Columns” button on the right. 

Note that Ahrefs is not always the most reliable. It may tell you some pages are missing when they are in fact live, and it may also completely miss other 404s. 

How to Fix 404 Errors On Your Website

Now that you have found all the 404 error pages on your website, let’s see how you can fix them. 

Redirect Them to an Appropriate Page

The first thing you can do to fix a 404 error is to redirect the missing page somewhere else. This will prevent your visitors from ever seeing it in the first place. 

Use a 301 redirect for the purpose. 

Note that it is very important to choose an appropriate page for the redirect. You don’t want to confuse visitors by sending them somewhere unexpected. Make sure the new destination page matches the missing one as much as possible. 

SEOs often advise redirecting 404s to the homepage. This tactic is often a sound one, but as not all visitors will understand how they ended up on the homepage when they were looking for a product, service or blog post, you may also want to consider leaving some pages as 404s and 410s – as we discuss below. 

If you are redirecting a page, make sure to also replace all incoming internal links with the new destination URL. While there is nothing wrong with having a couple of redirects on your website, you want both visitors and crawlers to get where they need to be as directly as possible: it’s just good SEO practice. You especially want to avoid any long redirect chains. 

Correct the URL

If the 404 error is caused by a broken link, i.e. there is something wrong with the URL, but the page itself is still alive and kicking, you will only need to correct the URL to fix the issue. 

For example, you may have this page on your website: example.com/offers 

If you have inadvertently linked to it by using this URL: example.com/ofers – it will show up as a 404, even though you still have the /offers page on the website. 

When checking for 404s and broken links, make sure to always check the URL first, as typos are often their cause, and they require the simplest fix imaginable. 

Restore Drafted or Deleted Pages

If you have drafted or deleted a page (whether by accident or on purpose), you can fix the 404 error this has caused by republishing it. 

Pages that aren’t seeing much traffic can safely be deleted (and all internal links pointing to them removed). However, popular pages that see a lot of organic traffic should be redirected or replaced with better content. 

Anticipate Typos

Try to predict the common typos your visitors may make when typing a URL directly into their browser, like the above /offers vs. /ofers example. 

Establish pre-emptive redirects from the typo version to the correct URL, to ensure a flawless user experience. 

Leave Them As Is

Sometimes the best course of action is simply to leave a 404 page as is. This is the case when you have deleted low-quality, thin pages, and you want them to not be found. 

You should also leave pages as 404s when there is no other relevant URL you can redirect them to. If you are an ecommerce website and you no longer sell a product, or if you are a service-based business that no longer offers a service, you can tell visitors it’s no longer available with a 404 page. 

The missing page will over time get de-indexed and it will stop seeing traffic. You can speed this process up by using a 410 status code instead of the 404. 

Make Them 410s

When you intentionally and permanently remove a page from your website, the best thing you can do is make it a 410. This response code means that the page is gone entirely, and it will help search engines understand you no longer want it around. 

410 pages will be de-indexed faster than 404 pages, and they will send a positive signal to Google: you are taking care of your website, and doing what you can to improve its indexing and user experience. 

An Easy Way to Monitor 404s

Staying on top of your 404 pages is important both for user experience and for SEO. The simplest and most effective way to do it is to use Link Whisper. Not only will it uncover any broken links, it can help you improve your internal linking strategy too. 

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