Here’s a simple web development tip that foolishly I didn’t do completely until today. Using Google Analytics, find all of your site’s 404 errors. Locate the internal errors by seeing which internal pages sent the error traffic, open the pages up, and search for broken links.
It is also critical that you find external links that are going to a 404 page within your site. Perhaps the content moved, was removed, or the other webmaster made an error with his link to your site. If it’s the later, perhaps you want to email or call the other webmaster and ask nicely for the link to change. I find that calling is a better way to connect, although many people seem to be reluctant to pick up the phone.
If you find that the link is to a page that was moved or removed, you should redirect the link in your website’s htaccess file to a relevant page within your site – or to the page that moved. It can be a pain to find the exact link that was used because Google only shows the referring website, however, you can do a site search on Google (ie search site:xyzreferrer.com yoursite.com) in Google, and you will probably find where your link originates. Instead of taking the chance that the other webmaster will remove his link, it’s probably better just to redirect it to a relevant page.
After doing this with one of my sites a couple days ago, error traffic is way down. This helps to reduce the bounce rate, which should help with Google rankings.
If you use Google Sitemaps you will see exactly what the error page/link is and the pages linking to it. It’s a great tool with lots of info.
Good tip. It’s also potentially alot of work.
A shortcut that is not as elegant/precise, is to redirect all 404 errors to your main page. Not sure if all hosting providers offer this.
Perhaps doing both is a good thing.
Hand code/redirect whatever pages you find, and auto redirect those you don’t.
@Josh – already do that, but I wanted to give users a better experience by showing them something close to what they wanted. For example, an inlink was pointing to a page on one of my sites that had previously been used to show info about the Lions Club. Instead of forwarding to my home page, I created a page about the local Lions Club and forwarded the link to that page.
This is a nice plugin for a WordPress blog that easily allows you to install Google Analytics to your site. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analyticator/
I just installed mine today, but it was very easy to install and get the analytics code via Google.com etc.