A link leads to a

A link leads to a "Page not found" or 404 error


If a link on your site is broken, visitors can be redirected to a 404 error page. A typical example is a "Page not found" page.


Problem statement:

A visitor clicks on one of those links from your website/blog and gets the following message: "404 Page Not Found - The requested URL was not found on this server" or something similar.

Re-writing these dead links improves user experience as well as helps Google index new content faster by updating the link equity for all affected URLs.


Solution: Update the URLs with any online search engine crawler (e.g., Google) so that they will be re-routed to their corresponding web pages or blog posts if possible, otherwise might point to a different relevant page on your website or to a completely different website.


Details: If the web page with the URL in question no longer exists, it is best to update and modify all links pointing to that particular web page with a new working URL (e.g., 20150605_website_url_not_working.html > 20150606_better_fixed-url.html). In most cases, you can find an old link by typing any part of the broken link into a search engine, such as Google Search . Then choose "Cached" from the dropdown menu of search results to see if Google has saved a copy of this dead web page online at any point in time. Also try using Wayback Machine to see if it has saved a copy of the dead web page as well. The Wayback Machine will give you options to choose from different dates and help find an old working URL that you can update your outdated link with.


Remember to also check all related pages or those linked-to by the dead page using the same steps described above. It is not uncommon for one broken or outdated link to have several other dead or outdated links pointing to it, so your work is not done yet! Don't forget to also look through any comments on Google+ posts, YouTube videos, Amazon products, eBay listings, etc., where visitors are likely sending others directly to specific URLs.


Tip: If changing or replacing some particular incoming/outgoing links is not an option, add a NoIndex tag to the dead web page using Google Webmaster Tools . This way search engine crawlers will ignore this particular URL automatically and will not look at it again.


Warning: Do NOT delete or remove a web page or blog post if you can still see some outdated links pointing to that web page. When a broken URL gets removed from search engine indexes, URLs pointing to the old dead page remain in the indexes and visitors click on those links instead of your new ones. Also, keep in mind that it might take some time for Google's algorithms to catch up with the newly updated web site structure so be patient and wait for changes to take effect naturally over time.


Other options:


1. If the page with the old URL is still accessible but you don't want it to be indexed anymore, then decide whether or not to 301 redirect it accordingly. To learn more about this option, please read Jeff Sauer's post on how to use HTTP status codes for SEO .


2. You can also manually re-write all incoming/outgoing links pointing to that particular web page so visitors will be redirected to a better landing page where applicable; e.g., http://example.com/oldpage > http://example.com/newpage" > "http://example.com/junk." Keep in mind that if your website has very deep internal linking structure (i.e., dozens of pages linked together on many different levels) and you don't use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content issues and possible rankings/traffic loss, you might need to think about modifying your overall website architecture.


3. If the page with the broken URL was a forum post or blog comment, simply delete it as it is not worth fixing these types of posts (or go through them manually and update any references to old URLs). It may be useful however, if that old comment mentioned an important piece of information that can help solve some other current issue for another visitor then leave it as is; otherwise just let it die and don't worry about dead comments.


4. If the page with the broken URL was a product review or other type of post published on social media, you can either delete it or let it die and ignore it. However, if that dead post mentioned an important piece of information that can help solve some other current issue for another visitor then leave it as is; otherwise just let it die and don't worry about old social media posts.


5. If you want to keep those links pointing to the old article as-is but would like visitors who click them to be redirected to a better landing page, then use your search engine friendly redirects plugin (e.g., Redirection ) and redirect those URLs accordingly using 301 permanent red . Doing this will automatically send visitors to the correct and updated URL so you don't have to worry about fixing those links yourself.


In all cases, it is important to "notify" search engines about any updates on your website using the proper procedures as outlined in Google Webmaster Guidelines . This will help improve your organic rankings as well as clearing up some of those errors being displayed in SERPs. Also keep in mind that every time a page's content gets modified, re-indexed or re-linked by other websites/serps, this change needs to be reflected accordingly on your side too. If not, then potentially some of those red "Page not found" errors will remain visible/spread further among visitors' social media posts and news articles even after you've fixed it on your side.