In today’s 3 Minute Tip, we’re going to review a quick way to find website 404 errors and identify the sources using Google Analytics.

What is a 404 Error?

A 404 error is a server error which means that a page cannot be found on the server. For example, if someone attempts to access a non-existent page on this website such as http://www.learndigitaladvertising.com/iheartcats, they would likely cause the server to return a 404 error.

What Causes 404 Errors?

There are a few common reasons which cause 404 errors on websites:

  • Website Redesign: If you’ve ever redesigned your website, the URLs of your pages may have changed. As a result, someone trying to access the OLD URLs would likely see a 404 (unless you redirected the URL).
  • Inbound links: Using the example above where you might have redesigned your website- Consider if another website was linking to one of the OLD URLs. Or if you are running Adwords ads and forgot to update the landing page URLs after a redesign. Any traffic from these links would likely get a 404 error.
  • Search Engine Indexing: In situations where content has been moved or removed from your website, search engine traffic may still go to the old URLs and thus, causes 404 errors.

How Can We Find if 404s are Common on a Website?

Today, we’re going to use Google Analytics to find 404 errors, find the sources, and consider how to fix them.

Steps Involved:

  1. Identify “characteristics” of the 404 page
  2. Filter Google Analytics for these characteristics
  3. Review sources