This is the most common WordPress error and almost every blogger faces it at some stage, however, fixing this error is absolutely simple. You don’t need to be a tech geek in order to eliminate this error from your site.
But, like every WordPress error this error also turns off visitors, it affects the user experience and Google doesn’t like it. So, it is a must to solve it as soon as possible or at least let your visitor know that this page doesn’t exist now and they should try to search for something else.
In today’s post, I’ll let you go through some of the really easy steps you need to take to remove this error. We’ll also look at how to design an engaging 404 error page so that your site visitors don’t leave your site easily.
So without wasting any more time, let’s begin!
- 1 What is error 404 not found?
- 2 What Causes Error 404 Not Found?
- 3 How To Fix 404 Not Found Error
- 4 Other Names Of 404 Error
- 5 Can 404 Not Found Error Affect Your SEO?
- 6 How To Monitor 404 Error With Google Analytics
- 7 How To Create A Engaging 404 Page
What is error 404 not found?
Error 404 not found (in engineering terms) is a hypertext transfer protocol standard response code (just like 400, 403, and 500 error), in computer network communications, to indicate that the browser was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was. (1)
In simple words, if someone tries to open your site with a URL Slug that doesn’t exist, then your site will show a 404 not found page. Your webserver was able to connect with the user but it was unable to find the exact resource that was requested.
let’s take an example if someone tries to open your site with the link
Yoursite.com/your-post but the post was deleted or moved, in that scenario the user will see a 404 not found page because, even though your web host is working normally, the resource that was requested doesn’t exist.
What Causes Error 404 Not Found?
Changing the permalink setting could bring this error to your entire WordPress site. So, if you’re seeing this error on your complete site (on every page you’re opening) then you need to fix the permalink, but if only one page is showing this error then the chances are that you have changed the link of that page without setting up a 301 redirect.
But if everything is okay, but you are still seeing users visiting the 404 not found page, then perhaps it’s not your mistake, sometimes, it’s a mistake by the user, sometimes user enters the wrong URL of your site in the search bar which leads them to 404 page.
How To Fix 404 Not Found Error
I hope you’ve understood what causes and what is error exactly a 404 error. Now, let’s see how to fix this problem and reduce the bounce rate of your site.
Solution 1: Plugin Method
I’ve found 3 really simple and cool plugins that can easily do the job for you. I’ve ranked them according to their ease. These plugins use a method called 301 redirects.
A 301 redirect is basically a permanent redirect from one URL to another. It is a method to quickly let browsers know that the requested post or page has moved or been replaced.
Last week I decided to change the URL of one of my posts, I wanted to refresh the article, so I edited the link of that article. It was a good idea but I began noticing something strange in my Google Analytics. People who were clicking on the old URL were getting the 404 not found error, and because of that, my site’s bounce rate was affected negatively.
I wanted to redirect all the users who were opening the old URL to the new URL, so, I began searching for the perfect plugin that can help us redirect, and fortunately, I found several plugins that are really good, here are my top 3 recommendations.
1: 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager (Plugin)
This plugin is very easy to use. It comes with an interface that doesn’t confuse people. Also, it’s a free plugin, it’s a win-win situation for beginners. However, you can get upgrade it as it offers premium features as well. The starting price for 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager Pro is $49 /lifetime.
It has over 100k activate installation which shows this plugin is trustworthy. Let’s look at how to use 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager.
- Step 1: Install And Activate
This plugin is easily available in the plugin section of WordPress, just search “redirect” or name of the plugin in the search tab, and you’ll find it.
- Step 2: Go To The Settings
Once you’ve activated it, go to the settings. The dashboard will look something like this:
- Step 3: Enter The Old URL Slug Under “Redirect From”
Now enter the URL Slug which has been moved/changed. Rember, you just only need to enter a slug, not the whole URL.
- Step 4: Enter The New URL Under “Redirect To”
Enter the new complete URL of your post/page and then click on “Save”
Note: Do not change the ID from 301 to something else like 307 or 302, otherwise, it won’t work.
2: Redirection (Plugin)
This plugin used to be the go-to plugin for redirection, however, it hasn’t got any update from the last 5 months, and that is why I’ve placed it 2nd on my list of best.
Most webmasters would suggest this plugin if you wanna use a plugin for redirection as it is simple and trustworthy. With over 2 million active installations, you can definitely trust this plugin.
Now. let’s see how to use it properly and what type of features does it offer.
- Step 1: Install And Activate
Just like 301 redirects, this plugin is also easily available in the plugin section. Just search Redirection, and you’ll find it. Once you find it, click on install and then activate.
- Step 2: Go to The Settings
Once the plugin is successfully activated, go to the settings page. The plugin will welcome you with a welcome page in which you’ll see info about how to use this plugin. If you wanna read it then read otherwise click on “Start Setup” to save some valuable seconds.
Click on “Finish the setup”
This plugin uses REST API, according to WordPress, this API helps this plugin to communicate with WordPress. You don’t have to enable it, it will get enabled automatically.
It will take a few seconds to get everything ready. Click on “Finished” once the progress bar shows 100%
The Redirection plugin offers a feature that helps to import existing redirects. I’m leaving it as is, but if you have used any other redirection plugin before then you can import that data with the help of this plugin.
The main homepage will look something like this:
- Step 3: Setup your first redirection
In the Source Url, you have to put the URL that doesn’t exist now or has been moved. In Query Parameters, select Exact match in any order. Now, the Target URL should be the new URL, and in Group, select Redirections. Then, click on Add Redirect.
- Step 4: Check The Old URL
Now, open your web browser and enter the old URL, you’ll see that your website is redirecting you to a new page with a new link.
3: Use RankMath
If you’re looking for an all-in-one SEO plugin, then RankMath could be the best option for you. It has a lot of features, and one of them is redirection.
You won’t have to install a separate redirection plugin if you’re using RankMath. let’s look at the steps you need to take to redirect a deleted or moved page/post to a new page/post.
- Step 1: Install And Activate
This plugin is one of the most popular plugins, so it is easily available in the Plugin Section. Just search “RankMath” and click install and then activate. Once you’ve installed it, do the basic configuration.
- Step 2: Click On RankMath From The Left Side Menu Of Your WordPress
Once the plugin is successfully activated, the RankMath option will be visible to you in the main menu of your WordPress. Click on it.
- Step 3: Click Redirections And Then Add New
Select the Redirection option from the RankMath menu, and then click on Add New.
Click “Add New”.
- Step 4: Setup Redirections
Now, enter the source URL (The URL which no longer exists) in the Source URLs.
And, write the new URL in the Destination URL. Then, select Redirection Type as 301 Permanent Move, leave Maintenance Code as is, and set Status Code as Activated.
Once you set up everything, click on Add Redirection button to finish things up.
If you’re facing this issue sitewide after updating the WordPress version, then this could be terrifying because in this scenario only the homepage works and everything (like posts, pages, tags, and categories) shows a 404 not found error. But don’t worry, fixing this is a piece of cake tbh.
You only need to go to Permalinks (WordPress dashboard >> Settings >> Permalinks. ) and click on the Save Changes button, and boom, this error will go away instantly.
Make sure to select Post Name as link structure, because it is easy to understand and helps to grow organic traffic faster.
Solution 3: Restore Deleted Pages
If you’re seeing a lot of people coming to your deleted/moved page, then restoring the page might be a good idea.
Understand, people will not stop coming to your post just because you deleted it, that old URL might be ranking in search results or someone has used your old link in his blog as a reference.
The people who will come to your site using that old link might leave your site in seconds which may affect your overall rankings.
However, only restore that page if the traffic is very high, if you’re only getting 3 to 4 hits in a day or week, then stick to your new URL.
Solution 4: There May Be A Typo
Sometimes you don’t need to fix anything, there might be typing error from the user’s end. So, don’t waste your time looking for tips to fix this error.
However, make sure to build an eye-catchy 404 not found page, so that the users who are coming to your site after putting the wrong URL, don’t leave your site quickly.
We’ll look at how to build a proper beautiful 404 not Found page later in the post.
Solution 5: Delete Cache And Cookies And Refresh the Page
If you’ve done everything and still seeing this error, then try to clear cache & cookies and refresh it once to see whether this fixes the issue or not.
Clearing cookies and the caches are very simple, for beginners, I’ve published a step-by-step guide about how to clear cache and cookies, check out here.
Once you clear the cache & cookies, refresh the page, it should work.
Other Names Of 404 Error
This is just for knowledge, the 404 error is also famously known as below names:
- “Not Found”
- “HTTP Error 404”
- “404 Not Found”
- “Error 404”
- “The requested URL was not found on this server.”
- “The requested URL /~ was not found on this server. That’s all we know.
- “We can’t find the page you’re looking for.”
- “The page cannot be found”
- “Page Not Found”
Can 404 Not Found Error Affect Your SEO?
The answer is not that simple. Most of the time, it doesn’t affect your SEO, but if a popular post from your website is showing this error, then your article might lose its ranking in search results, in one or two days.
If you don’t fix the error quickly, then it will inhibit Google crawler and that could be harmful to your site.
However, if a person miss-typed your site’s URL, then Google will detect it and won’t hurt your site rankings. Google is very intelligent in detecting whose fault it is.
Also, if the error is sitewide, then it will completely stop Google Crawler from crawling your site, and you may see your site disappearing from search results.
If it’s not a fault from the visitor’s end, then fix the error as soon as possible.
How To Monitor 404 Error With Google Analytics
It is important to track this error, it helps to find broken links, see which pages Google is having trouble crawling, and troubleshoot performance-related issues with 404 errors.
- First, go to Customization and then Custom Reports in Google Analytics and after that click on +New Custom Report.
- Choose the report type Flat table.
- Select the dimensions as Page, Previous Page Path and Page Title.
- Select the metric as Unique Pageviews.
- Now, add a filter that excludes the value (entrance) for the dimension Previous Page Path. This filter makes sure that only 404 errors that were preceded by a page view on your website (and thus caused by an internal link) show in the report.
- Add a Regex filter for the page title that holds the expression that helps you detect your 404 error page (“404” in the example below, but it could also be “page not found” or something else, depending on the title tag of your 404 error page).
Now, if you save the report and open it, you will see the below columns:
- Page: URL that caused a URL error.
- Previous Page Path: Page that links to the false URL (in most cases).
- Page title: Title of your 404 page.
- Unique Pageviews: Number of sessions this error happened in.
How To Create A Engaging 404 Page
A perfect 404 page should contain a search bar, a button, and an engaging picture/animation. Also, it should be lightweight because having a heavy 404 page may increase the bounce rate. Now, let’s see what you have to do to have a customized 404 page on your site.
Step 1: Go to pages and click Add New
Step 2: Give A Name
Choose the name of your 404 page. To make it simple, I’ve named it “404”
Step 3: Download A Pic/Animation
I really like lottiefiles.com, they offer very engaging animated pics. Search “404” in the search box of lottiefiles.com, and download any pic you want.
Signup for their free plan, if you want better pics/animation or premium facility, then you can purchase their paid plan as well.
Once you find the perfect animation, click on the download icon to download it.
Download the file as GIF.
Step 4: Upload the file on your 404 page
Now, upload the file you’ve just downloaded.
Step 5: Add a search bar and latest posts widgets
Adding a search bar is pretty simple. Click on the block icon visible on the right side and search “search”, you’ll find the search bar. And for the latest posts widget, repeat the same steps but instead of searching “search” search “latest posts”.
Here’s how my 404 page is looking,
For me, it’s a perfect 404 not found page because it has everything, and it isn’t even heavy.
It’s a wrap!
404 Not Found error is a very common WordPress error. fixing it doesn’t require too many skills, but make sure to fix it as soon as possible because Google doesn’t like things that provide a bad experience to a user.
Thanks for reading!