We’ve all been there, you click on a link wanting to go through to a webpage to read more information on a subject of interest and you get presented with a ERROR 404: PAGE NOT FOUND…. as a user you’ll feel mildly disappointed that you can’t continue your research and probably frustrated enough not to bother carrying on with your research on that website.

Broken links (which present the 404’s) can happen really easily, by changing a site structure, by incorrectly typing the link in the first place or by simply removing the resource not realising that its being linked to by another page within your site. Most websites these days have broken links that you’re just not aware of.

Now while a 404 error will not get your site de-indexed from Google, what does happen if you have too many of them is that the automatic robots that crawl your site simply won’t be able to get to most of your links because they keep hitting 404 errors, so they’ll give up and move on. The end result? well half of your web pages won’t be found – so the result is exactly the same as being de-indexed simply because it can’t be found properly in the first place.

Most of you won’t be comfortable using the free webmaster tools that Google provides to help you identify this problems (so that you can fix them!) but there are a couple of free tools you can use that will help you identify any broken links you have on your site. The first one is free broken link checker. This is a really simple tool to use you simply put in your website url and hit go, let the tool do its thing (will take a bit of time if your site is large) as the tool finds your links it presents then in a table and you can click on the underlined url to find the page on your website where the bad link occurs, so you can easily go to fix it. Simple!

If you are a chrome user there is a handy little extension that you can use as you are editing or creating pages, as you are on the page simply click on the extension and wait for it to crawl the page. The tool then presents green links and red links, nice if you are a visual person so that you can easily see the problematic ones.

The other thing of course you must do is style a 404 page (don’t just present the default one) even if you just present a site map with links to all your other pages you might just stop the user clicking away if you’re helpful.. if you want to be more creative of course you can (take a look at some of these!)

So there we go, two free tools for you, a site wide one and then one for individual pages to capture those dreaded 404’s.