SEO

Using Google Search Console Tools To Clean Up Your (404) Act

Published: 10.25.12

Here’s a quick link building (or link reclamation) tip for you.  Google Webmaster Tools has really grown.  Yeah, there’s still some squirrely reporting (like why my impression count is exactly the same every day), but the Crawl Errors function is vital for anyone who adds and removes a lot of pages, or has switched sites and URLs.

A client of mine recently got a new website.  More than a reskin, 98% of the URLs had changed (for the better).  With Screaming Frog and some insight on what the URLs were going to be, I was able to whip together a good .htaccess file to use.

The new site has been live for a few months now, and despite thinking I had the 404 issue pretty covered, I logged into the Crawl Errors tool in Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools - URL Errors

 

I thought I had it under control.  Clearly not.  But Google makes it easier than ever to fix.  Click the Not Found button, and take a look at the list of 404’s it gives you.

Ideally you can clean these up with a couple sweeping server redirects.  In my case I simply forgot to remove an old XML sitemap.  But the beautiful thing is that each resulting page can be clicked for more information:

Google Webmaster Tool - Linked fromThat’s a pretty sweet link I was missing out on.  I made this my priority.  You might find some nuggets too with a fairly small amount of digging.

Are you of the video persuasion? Here’s the a screencast of the tactic:

Bill Sebald
Bill Sebald
Follow me on Twitter - @billsebald

I've been doing SEO since 1996. Blogger, speaker, and teacher at Philadelphia University. I started Greenlane in 2005 to help clients leverage search marketing to hit business goals. I love this stuff.

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  • Anthony Moore

    Handy little post here, Dr. Sebald.

    Gracias.

  • Bill:

    Thanks for the reminder about this hidden gem. I checked the stats for a site I recently purchased after reading this post and sure enough there were well over a dozen 404’s I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t find any links from Virgin.com though:)

    Travis Van Slooten

    P.S. I’m glad I’m not the only one who edits his comments for grammar. There is nothing more annoying than reading comments on blogs that are filled with spelling and grammar errors!

  • It’s a big improvement! I will check my sites and hope that there are not any “hidden treasures” like the one you found 😉

  • Dom

    It’s definitely much friendlier than it used to be. I would still like errors to be somehow permanently logged rather than disappearing on being marked as fixed. Sometimes, it’s hard to trace why there are all these individual weird looking rewrites everywhere. Just me I suppose.

  • I’ve noticed that it has become much less daunting. Previously when I have to rely on SEOmoz’s tools for crawl errors, I find Webmaster tools now suffices. Thanks for the post Bill

  • Great post and reminder. It is a little thing but it could really make an impact if you’re missing out on a great backlink.

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