The 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code that is returned when the server could not find what was requested by the user / client.
In simple words, 404 error page is displayed when –
- A user clicks a link on your site or some other site (which is linking to your site) for a page which does not exists (for eg. older posts which have been deleted), or
- When a user enters an incorrect url for your website in the browser address bar
This spoils the visitor experience and makes him leave your site too early. Its always recommended for webmasters that they should fix the missing pages immediately as soon as they spot them or make those pages user friendly such as by presenting the visitor with other useful content or links.
But the problem comes in tracking which links or requests are resulting in 404 pages. The easiest solution I have got for WordPress sites is to use HTTP 404 Email Notifier plugin.
How to Track 404 Error Pages?
HTTP 404 Email Notifier plugin tracks 404 error and sends an email to the site admin with information about the broken link as soon as the error occurs. This instant info about missing pages on your site will let you fix them asap.
Note: High traffic websites should use this with precaution as a frequently repeating 404 page may lead to flooding of your email inbox with notification emails.
Alternative Solution –
You can even use Google Webmaster Tools. There you’ll see a list of all pages that returned a 404 status code to Google while is was trying to index your site. But there are some downside – firstly, it does not track every single missing page of your site and secondly, its does not works in real time.
To check for missing pages using Google Webmaster tools – Once you have added and verified your site with the Google Webmaster panel, go to Dashboard –> Diagnostics –> Crawl Errors and select the “Not found” option.