There are many debates as to the best way to track 404 errors. The range of tools and functions range from just being able to count the 404 errors, all the way up to tracking your 404 errors, then helping you remedy the 404 errors. As always, there is never one fix that applies to all websites. The best fit for a 404 tracking tool depends on what type of site you have, how often errors occur, and whether you need a quick way to fix these 404 errors. Once you answer those questions, take a look at this list of 404 error tracking tools.

 
  1. Google Analytics is a great option if you already use Google Analytics on your website. If you do decide to use Google Analytics, first you would install a small piece of code onto a custom 404 error page for your site. This code will track the amount of times the error page occurs, and then embed this information into the "Top Content" section of your Google Analytics report. Another awesome feature is the ability to tell you the URL that generated the 404 error and the link that sent the user to that error page. Something to keep in mind, however, is that using Google Analytics to track 404 error pages cause your 404 metrics to be included in your reporting. 404 numbers are great to have when they are bigger than most of your other content, but these numbers may not be great to include in other web metrics, such as pageviews. Also, Google Analytics does not offer a way to remedy the 404 error page. Once the 404 error occurs, it's up to the webmaster to write code to create a 301 redirect to send the user to the new, working page. Therefore, Google Analytics is perfect for websites that 1. Already use Google Analytics 2. Are small and/or static sites and therefore do not generate too many 404 errors. 3. Your custom 404 error page follows 404 error page Best Practices, and is very good at keeping visitors on the website. If your website does not meet these criteria, then you may want to look to another tool to fix your 404 errors.
  2. Linkgraph is a webmaster tool that makes use of a widget to let the user know that the page they requested no longer exists and then after mini animation, it provides the new URL to the content the user was looking for. Linkgraph works through logging a website's page index, and then tracking changes to any of the pages. The Linkgraph service is free to try for the first month, then after that it's £150 (which converts to about $224) for the first year. To see the widget in action before you decide, there's an online demo of the Linkgraph widget. This widget seems to work best for sites that have a lot of changing content. If your site has extensive archives then this may be the best tool for you. Just keep in mind that Linkgraph does not remedy 404 errors. The 404 error count will continue as usual, which may have a negative impact on SEO.
     
  3. Alex King's 404 Notifier is a wordpress plug-in that tracks 404 errors. Looking at this tool, the only downfall is that it only works for Wordpress and it is only a tracking tool. 404 Notifier tracks 404 errors on your website and creates a table that logs all the 404 erros that occur on your Wordpress blog. Another great feature is that you can set up a 404 Notifier RSS feed or get email updates, so you can get all your 404 information without having to always log into your Wordpress Admin Page. On top of all the benefits, Alex King's wordpress plug-in is free to use on your site.
  4. Errorlytics is a SAAS (software as a service) application that has a couple additional features compared to other 404 error tracking tools. Not only does Errorlytics collect information on all 404 errors that occur on your site, but it also provides an opportunity to set up rules to handle the 404 error if it occurs again. These rules generate 301 redirects, which have great SEO benefits, seamlessly send the user to a relevant working web page. The sources of your 404s are also shown on Errorlytics. 404 error source information is helpful because it gives you the opportunity to try and get these bad links fixed to reduce the number of times a 404 error shows up on your site. Errorlytics also adopts some features from other 404 trackers, such as an RSS feed and email notifications.

Here are just some of the tools to track your 404 errors. If you decide, as a webmaster, that it's time to take action against pesky 404 errors, than one of these four sites will help you get started.

Co-Authored by Mary Peng, SEO specialist at Accession Media


April 30, 2009





Manoj has been in the Digital marketing industry for over 10 years with experience at some of Canada's largest companies: WestJet and Shaw Communications. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients. Manoj is also an entrepreneur in the Mobile and Local Deals space.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Web Analytics Congress (Amsterdam), Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He has also contributed to several leading online publications such as: Search Engine Land, Marketing Pilgrim, WebProNews, Search Engine Guide and the Web Analytics Assocation.

He founded and successfully sold Web Analytics World (a top 100 Digital Marketing Blog – http://adage.com/power150) and was voted #39th Most Influential Digital Marketer in North America – 2009 (see: www.Invesp.net)






Comments(7)

Some really good information here. At the moment I use Google Analytics for the websites I develop just because I'm used to it, but I will have to have a look at these other sites. I've also started to add custom 404 error pages to my sites so at least if one does occur, the user will get a nicer looking 404 page instead of the standard one.

Couldn't you set up a separate profile for 404 in google analytics so it doesn't skew your other site data?

Our new product, SEOversite, has 404 error tracking and repair as part of the application features. This specific feature tracks how many times a certain URL results in a 404 error. We allow the user to then redirect the URL using 301 or 302 redirects to another page within your website, all completed through a simple 3 step wizard.

SEOversite also offers missing keywords and descriptions alerts site wide (which you can fix within the interface), redirecting URLs and finding unique keywords from your website content and user search queries. SEOversite works with any existing CMS, or even without one.

SEOversite is currently evaluating customers for private beta.

oh. i didnt know you can actually track 404 errors. i'm so not a techie person. lol.

You can also send 404s to a page where you can capture all the error data and store it in a database, including which page was requested, what the particular error was, and then display some useful information, like a predictive sitemap, search function or both.

Using Analytics to track 404 incidences is nice, but you can do a lot more proactively.

If you use the Google Analytics approach, then it can be useful to set up a profile in which you have the 404 page as goal.

You can then:

1. Easily keep track of the 'conversion' rate for the goal and spot any unusual trends.

2. Use the 'reverse goal path' where relevant if the referring link is on your site and you'd like to know how people got there. (The reverse goal path report shows the last 4 pages before the goal was reached. It's not as good as a funnel report for things like a checkout, but comes into its own in cases like this where you have no idea what the preceding stages will be.)

Don't trust any external service if it comes to 404. Your best bet are apache access and error logs.

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Search Engine Guide > Manoj Jasra > Options for 404 Error Tracking