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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.