Getting the error code 404 on your website is a nightmare. If you’re on WordPress, figuring out how to avoid WordPress error 404 pages can be quite a challenge. By default, WordPress does have default settings which will help you deal with the dreaded 404 error, but it’s not exactly picture perfect. So how do you fix the error 404 message? More importantly, how do you prevent it from happening on any of your site’s pages?
This is the ultimate guide for WordPress Error pages. This particular guide provides answers as to why this error message happens in the first place, how you can avoid having this error message, and a lot of other information. Listed in this post are several plugins which will help in dealing with 404 errors. Once you’re through reading this post, you’ll know exactly what to do whenever you get a 404 error message.
The Causes of Error 404 Pages in WordPress
One of the main causes of 404 error message in WordPress is a change in the permalink of the posts. For example, if the website owner decides to change how the permalinks of the site’s pages are set up, they will end up with incoming links that point to a page which is no longer at that particular address. What this means for your site visitors is that instead of getting the content they were searching for, they’ll get a 404 page instead.
Another reason why you could have a 404 error message has something to do with mod_rewrite not being installed or missing in your server. If you want to use Pretty Permalinks, you need to have mod_rewrite working on your server. So in case you’re trying to use Pretty Permalinks and you end up with this error message, this is definitely the first thing you should check.
Yet another cause of having 404 pages could like in your index.php file or the search.php file. If you have an error in the code in either one of these files, it could return results with invalid addresses, or not even return results at all. If you’ve customized either your index.php or search.php file, it’s imperative that you check and make sure that they are not serving up invalid addresses, and that all of the different pages of your site are working properly. This is why it’s a good practice to make a backup of the previous version of each file before making any changes. In this way, you have a copy of the older file to roll back to in case you need it.
How Error 404 Can Damage Your Site’s Reputation
Obviously, the bounce rate on your site is the first thing that will be affected when you have the 404 error on your site’s pages. For example, if a site visitor follows a link to your site and they end up with a page that has the 404 error instead of what they were looking for, they will most likely leave and look elsewhere. It’s very unlikely that they will stay on your site and search for what they were looking for in it.
If you have a lot of 404 errors on your site’s pages, this will probably affect your search engine rankings as well. When engine spiders keep getting non-existent pages on your site, your site will get penalized for having invalid links. If only one or two pages of your site have this error message, then it isn’t going to have much of an impact. But, if the search engines can’t find half of the pages that it thinks should be there, then expect a bigger hit.
How to prevent Error 404 for your WordPress blog
By far the best way to prevent the error 404 is to be proactive. You should have your permalinks set up from the start, instead of changing them once the content is live on the web. Spending time when you create your blog and making sure everything is in order will mean you’re unlikely to make any changes in your set up in the future. Please read our article what to do after installing WordPress to get an idea of how you can prevent most of the issues before they become a nightmare.
You should also check any incoming links you have, and proactively contact any site owner who has an incorrect incoming link. A lot of site owners will be happy to fix the error if you let them know about it. If you have old content that you want to delete from your site, stop for a moment and don’t delete. If you really have to take it down, you should create a page using the same permalink to provide information to site visitors on the content that used to be there. This is also a great opportunity to include links to other similar content that your site visitors may be interested in. You can also make use of WordPress error 404 plugins to help you prevent and deal with error 404.
WordPress Plugins for Error 404
These free plugins listed below will definitely help you in preventing 404 errors and will also help keep your site visitors happy. The plugins listed below have different features ranging from redirecting your site visitors to the right page, or logging 404 errors so you can fix them.
Smart 404: This plugin, as its name suggests, is indeed a smart one as it helps eliminate pages that have the 404 error automatically. If a site visitor gets to a page in your site that has a 404 error, this plugin will search the requested URL for another post that matches it. If there’s more than one possible match, this plugin will give your site visitor a list of links to choose from. This will definitely help your site’s bounce rate when it comes to 404 errors.
Google 404: Google 404 is a great and easy way to embed a Google search box on your custom 404 page. In this way, site visitors won’t be leaving and instead will be encouraged to use the search box to search for the content they were looking for on your site.
404 Notifier: This plugin will notify you of any 404 errors present on your site. This plugin is a must-have especially when you’re changing the structure of your permalinks or if you’re moving things around your site. This plugin is great for checking for broken URLs so that you can easily identify and fix the errors on your site.
The Free 404 Plugin: This particular plugin will create a customized 404 page on your site that includes a list of posts which are related to the keywords that appear in the requested URL.
Useful 404s: This plugin will help create useful 404 pages on your site.
WP 404 Images Fix: This plugin replaces images that have the 404 error with an image of your choice. You can also use this plugin to add a class to the img tag, or hide the image completely in case it’s missing.
Permalinks Moved Permanently: This plugin is great for when you change the structure of the permalinks on your blog and don’t want to lose any of the incoming links that you already have. Aside from automatically redirecting your site visitors to the new link, this plugin also creates a 301 Moved Permanently error so that visitors are automatically redirected in the future, as well as search engine spiders.
Redirection: This plugin will monitor 404 errors on your site, and helps you map them into 301 redirects. This plugin will also help you set a custom redirection which basically passes a URL through to a different page, file, or website. Moreover, this plugin also creates a full log of all the redirections you have. You can use it to redirect existent and nonexistent pages, and create redirects based on certain parameters or login status.
There are also other tools you can make use of to fix and manage 404 errors on your WordPress blog or website. Here’s a few to get you started:
- Creating an Error 404 Page: This is the official documentation coming from the WordPress Codex.
- Best WordPress 404 Error Page Designs: this features a gallery with 20 great examples of 404 error pages to inspire you when you create your own.
- Custom 404 Pages for WordPress Theme: This is a great post that comes with plenty of wonderful ideas for what you should include in your custom 404 page.
- WordPress Tip: Customizing your 404 PageL This is a short guide that explains how you can customize the 404 page that comes with whatever WordPress theme you’re using.
- Check for Dead Links: This is actually part of an article found in the WordPress Codex which features a lot of links about finding dead links in your website.
- Customize Your 404 Page from the WordPress Admin: This a great guide to making your own 404 page template that is editable right from your WordPress admin area.
- How to create simple 404 page for WordPress: This guide is for advanced WordPress users. If you are familiar with PHP, you can create your own error 404 pages.
- Custom 404 error page design: This is also for expert WordPress users.
If you happen to know any other resources like plugins and tutorials to manage WordPress error 404, please let us know.