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  • Combating the 404 Error Message

    wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/error404.png” alt=”” width=”255″ height=”197″ />Broken links have the ability to kill and bury a site quicker than a hiccup. when consumers visit a site only to be greeted by an error message, nine out of ten will just move on to the next listing without giving it a second thought. There is NOTHING a web surfer hates more than clicking on a link in eager anticipation only to be faced with the inevitable ‘File Not Found’. It is a death knell!

    Several proxy servers cannot differentiate between a ‘hard’ 404 (which tells you that the actual URL is not in working order) and a ‘soft’ 401 (which usually means that the remote host is down) – the latter is a self resolving problem, but the consumer won’t know that if all they get is one generic message for both situations. If they don’t know, they aren’t going to stick around to find out and they almost certainly won’t come back later hoping for a different result.

    People expect web searches to be very close to automatic. Slow loading sites or sites that contain  broken links leading to them will wither and die. Consumers will find faster pathways to travel. It hardly matters if your site is ten times better than anyone else’s if the road leading to it is barricaded. It’s no good if you can’t use it. A consumer confronted with a 404 message when trying to access a  page will often make a mental note, consciously or subconsciously to disregard your site from that point on, even if they used you in the past. It’s the exact reason why giving your site a checkup is a mandatory regular activity – at least if you care about your site ranking well.

    If consumers begin to mentally categorize your site as ‘broken’, you will not only have lost all their business but any business they might have referred to you as well. You also lose all possible backlinks form them or future visitors referred by them. Any way you slice it, this is not good.

    Make it a part of your regular routine to check all of your links. Next month, check them all again. Do this on a regular basis. Don’t just check the internal links or links in your search rankings – it is imperative that you include links in articles that you have posted, along with any other links you may have managed to place out on the web.

    Make sure that you pay particular attention to any links from other sources that go to specific pages other than your home page. You may find that you need to contact a few people to hand off an updated URL. Otherwise, you can use a redirect to simplify matters and get traffic to the right place. Site owners who link to you will appreciate that you are providing an updated link as they don’t want broken links on their site either! It is a winning practice for everyone.

    Check all of the links in and out of your site by logging into your Google Webmaster Account. Once there, click on the site you want to check out. Once in your account, navigate through the different pages on your site. Keep a record of where your inbound links are coming from. This will make the process quicker in the future when you need to make comparisons.

    Once you have checked all your inbound links, start checking your internal links. Ending up with a 404 message from inside your own site is just flat out embarrassing. There is no win in that.  Check and then double check every single one of your page to page links to be sure that your site is fully navigational.

    Finally, check all of the outbound links to make it a clean sweep. You don’t want to appear sloppy or give a poor impression by having a 404 message pop up when someone tries to check out a site you recommend. It embarrasses you and the site you are linking to. It looks like you  have fallen asleep on the job.

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