You must have encounter 404 error page at some point in WordPress. 404 errors are generated when the requested web page cannot be found. If the server is working fine but the address user enters cannot be reached, then the web server directs you to the error page. However reaching this page may not be a pleasant experience for many users. Most of the casual visitors are going to bounce out of your site if they experience 404 errors page. So in this article we will see what is 404 error in WordPress and how you can improve the user experience by fixing 404 error page for WordPress.
What is 404 Error in WordPress
When WordPress does not find a page or a post then it displays the 404 errors. Most of the WordPress theme have a file name 404.php dedicated for displaying the error. If the 404.php page is not present in the active theme then it displays the index page. The default 404 page in WordPress is a simple page that tells the general visitors that the page was not found and gives a search field which visitors can use to find the content they are looking for.
Possible causes of 404 errors
404 errors occur in almost all kinds of websites including WordPress. There are wide ranges of reasons that can cause the 404 errors. Most of the problems causing 404 errors in your website can be solved with proper treatment. Let’s see some probable causes that can give you the 404 error in your website:
- Change in permalink structure
Sometimes you change the permalink structure of your website and forget to link any internal page to the new URL. Any pages linking to the old URL can give you the 404 errors.
- Deleting pages
If you delete any pages of your website then the links and URL to the deleted pages can give you 404 errors.
- Broken links
Most of the post and pages have external links. If those external links expire or gets broken then again 404 errors can occur.
404 errors have lots of downside. The most harmful effect of 404 errors is the bad influence it leaves to the visitors. Visitors can freak out if they land on the some unexpected error page. As a result the bounce rate of your website increases. 404 errors can also hurt your position in the SERPs. Your website will appear low quality and non professional with 404 errors. It can break the trust of your customers and subscribers towards your site.
Fixing the 404 errors
To fix the 404 errors, here are the 3 effective and popular solutions.
- Check for the broken link
- Building your own Custom 404 error Pages
Check for the broken link
The first solution is to check the broken internal and external links with the help of various tools. Then you can fix the broken links manually. Here are few tools you can that can be helpful for you.
This is the free link checker provided by W3C and Mozilla. Using this link checker is very easy. You just have to enter the URL of the document that you would like to check. Then it will trace all the links in your website and then list the links that are returning 404 errors.
Broken Links Checker plugin will check your entire website and notify you if there is any broken links and missing images. Since broken links are the major cause of 404 errors so the plugin helps you to keep the 404 errors to the minimum. Once the broken links are identified, the plugin gives you options to either edit the URL or remove link or manually mark the link as unbroken and even completely hide the link.
Redirection is another technique you can use to prevent 404 errors. 301 redirects is the best way to ensure that users and search engines are directed to the correct page. If you ever need to change the URL of the page, you must create a 301 redirect which notifies that a page has permanently moved to new location. If you have multiple domains of the same website or if you want to buy a new domain for website, you will need the redirection.
For WordPress users there is the plugin called Redirection which manages 301 redirects and keeps the number of your 404 errors to minimum. This plugin will be really useful if you are migrating pages from old website or changing directory of your WordPress install.
Create custom 404 error Pages
Since 404 errors are not completely removable, most of the popular website accept this fact and create a custom 404 error page. Since some visitors are surely going to land on the error page so it can be a good idea to make their visit pleasant with attractive 404 errors page. With the help of your customization you can decorate the page so it does not hurt your visitors and makes better user experience.
You can also link some of your best contents in the page. There are number of plugins in WordPress that you can use to create a custom 404 page. 404page, Custom 404 Pro, 404 Page by SeedProd and Forty Four are some of the popular plugins for this task. If you are good with codes you can create completely your own page with the help of guide on WordPress codex.
With the tips provided above you can fix majority of your 404 errors. You can install a few plugins mentioned above to redirect the error page or to fix the broken link. If your website still gets 404 errors do not panic and remember that almost all the website gets the 404 errors page at some point. Since it is not 100% avoidable, it will be a really great idea to make a creative custom 404 error page.
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