Why You Should Keep an Eye on Your 404 Stats

20 Jul

Recently, I installed the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress, to keep an eye on my outgoing links. You could also use Xenu Link Sleuth to do this, but having a plugin doing this regularly, and to see the broken links show up in your WP dashboard makes it much more actionable. And even better: cleaning up the broken links only takes a few minutes.

The first report of the Broken Link Checker listed 92 broken links, out of a total of nearly 2,000 links. When ran through this list manually, I noticed that most of the broken links were the result of a new URL structure and bad redirection. Because I wanted to keep most of the links intact (I linked to them in the past, so they should probably still be link worthy, right?), I tried to find the new URL of the 404-ing page first. If the search functionality of the site didn’t point me to the right page, I just dropped the link. Of the 92 broken links, I had to drop 49, which is more than half of them…

What I found most shocking, was that about 75% of all the broken links pointed to web savvy sites, including several SEO blogs. Making sure that you redirect all pages properly when you adjust your URL structure, and checking your 404 statistics regularly both seem pretty basic SEO skills to me.

With new (popular) plugins like this, and with smart folks chasing down other people’s 404s to build links, I’d strongly advise you to keep a close eye on your 404 statistics…

8 Responses to “Why You Should Keep an Eye on Your 404 Stats”

  1. Rob July 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Broken link checker works great, and I use it a lot for fixing those redirects. It is amazing how often people change their site organization creating a frenzy of bad links.

  2. Henri July 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    Why don’t you use Google Analytics or Google Webmastertools? These tools are great to determine which links are 404.

    Xenu works great! But I thinks that WP isn’t the right place for checking broken links :)

  3. Rob July 25, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    To Henri, if you use WP, Broken Link Checker is the best thing you could possible use. It checks all of your links, and even checks redirects. It makes for easy editing or deleting of links as well.

  4. Wiep July 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    @Rob – I found it even more amazing to see several SEO websites not redirecting their old URLs properly :)

    @Henri – Analytics and GMWT are great to spot 404s! The WP plugin works perfect to spot 404s on external pages you’re linking to, but if you want to keep an eye on your own pages, GWMT is probably the best solution. Except when you don’t return hard 404s…

  5. Norilyn August 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Wow, I just realized the importance of tracking these error pages. I thought it’s something of no value at all. Thanks for sharing mate!

  6. Michael August 19, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    Fantastic article, thanks for sharing, I now have the broken link checker plugin installed as well.


  7. Ritika Bains – Design Junction September 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Chasing down 404s is tedious. However, leaving them all over your blog can actually hurt your rankings. Thanks for the plugin tip.

  8. Meg September 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    I hate getting that 404 stats. Thanks for this. I would love to avoid it.