Managing WordPress 404 Error Pages

You know what it’s like… You go to a search engine or Web site, find a link you are interested in, click on it and a “404 — Page Not Found” error page displays. You could have typo’d the URL or the page, post, directory has changed or is removed. Regardless the reason, you didn’t find what you were looking for. There you are staring at a blank visually boring unhelpful error page. Drat!

Two things then happen when this occurs on your site. You have ruined the user experience and have created a frustrated user right out the gate. You also then have a user that didn’t find what they were looking for.

What many then do is hit their back button to start their search over. Sometimes going back to the search engine they found your link on never to revisit again. Opportunity lost.

The thing is, as your site grows and takes on a life of its own, it is hard to track outbound links and page/post changes that could affect internal site linking. Outbound links go off-line, internal links change through the normal course of updating — it happens. The good news is you can easily solve this dilemma!

You can avoid 404 horror with three nifty plugins:

  1. Smart 404: This plugin allows me to have a customized message and 404 page, that then makes suggestions to the user of possible substitute areas on my site. Helps to keep visitors engaged and on my site.
  2. Redirection: This plugin manages 301 redirections, keeps track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have.
  3. Broken Link Checker: This plugin keeps tabs on any broken links on or off site to minimize users having to see your 404 page in the first place. When you login, on your Dashboard will be a notice of any broken links found allowing you to edit, delete or disregard.

I’ve had these three plugins in place on my site for over a year now and they really help save me a ton of time with my site housekeeping versus having to do all this manually.

Why not give these plugins a try and let me know how it works for you?

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