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You’ve had your website redesigned and you’re looking good. But when you go out to Google and click on a link, it gives you a 404. But you know for sure that page is there. What could have happened and will this effect my ranking?
Why did you get a 404?
There are several reasons why you could have gotten a 404 error on your website:
- Your pages got renamed in the redesign: This can happen. As a general rule, it shouldn’t change, unless you are optimizing the page for better search. If you’ve spent time optimizing your pages, this can include the slug or URL. If your pages and posts were not imported in and maybe manually entered, there could have been a typo or someone simply copy and pasted the content and just renamed the URL.
- Page was removed: During your content clean-up, you could have decided to delete the page.
Is this a problem for Google and SEO?
It’s not a deal breaker. Google is well aware that pages break, get moved or deleted. However, it is important to your customers and can be very important if you’ve done some optimization on those pages and they are not displaying. Here are some things to note:
- If you sell products, for example, and decide to rename your pages, a customer may have it bookmarked for future reference or ordering. You want them to be able to get back to it, therefore a redirect should be put in place.
- If you’ve spent some time optimizing your pages so that they rank better, a 404 can be a huge problem. Double checking everything when a site is moved will be key.
How do I go about fixing these issues?
Here are some ways to avoid any issues with your site pages.
- Avoid changing your URL: When possible, avoid changing your URL or slug. IF you decide to change the URL for a particular page and the content is still valid, set up a redirect to the new page.
- Do a sanity check with Screaming Frog: There are various tools out there but you can download Screaming Frog for free and do a check on your website. The free version only searches 500 pages but it will let you know if you have broken links anywhere on your site. You can then decide if you want to redirect those links to another page or let them die.
- Use a redirection tool or set-up redirects in your htaccess: If you are using a CMS like WordPress, there are many URL redirection tools out there. You can simply install one of those and easily put your redirects there. If you have a hardcoded site, you can set-up redirects in your htaccess file on your server.
- Redirect old pages to relevant ones: There may be times where you delete pages for whatever reason. For example, let’s say you had a page on apples and you deleted it. Be sure to redirect that page to let’s say, fruit. You want to redirect pages to what’s relevant to the removed content. Avoid just redirecting everything to the homepage where ever possible.
Take your 404 pages a step further
While errors can happen, you can get creative with your 404 pages. I’ve seen people put silly notices up and I’ve seen informational ones as well. It’s up to you based on your business and maybe even your sense of humor. Use this as your opportunity to point people in the right direction. For the most part, all CMS tools have a generic 404 page that shows it has been reached in error. But you can edit those to be more informative.
Here is an example of our basic 404. What it does is it apologizes for the missing information but it also gives them an idea of where they might go to see other content. Us this misdirection to your advantage to get them to the right place.
Drum roll please…..Microsoft will no longer be offering support on their browser versions older than 11 (penned “end of life” by Microsoft). I Know! Shut the front door! On January 12th, Microsoft will release a patch that will “encourage” users to upgrade their old IE browser. Since they won’t be patching these older browsers, users will open themselves up to malware issues as time goes on. This is great for developers because we know longer have to craft code to fit the internet explorer browser, rather the older versions(i.e. if IE8…). No more adjusting styles to make sure everything looks peachy. This is such a huge deal. For years, we’ve all been counting down to when this will happen. So rejoice fellow developers and designers! Microsoft’s release for the “end of life” upgrade
For all you folks on a Joomla CMS, they have released a major secruity patch for 3.4.7 that you need to get taken care of. So important to keep the core of your CMS up-to-date no matter what it is. Unfortunately those on old platforms are a bit stuck.
Joomla no longer supports older versions of their CMS so you either have to upgrade, which is almost a whole rework or you’ll need to switch CMS tools to something like WordPress (NOTE: stay away from proprietary platforms like Javelin or ASP based platforms like DotNetNuke ). I have been a long time supporter of Joomla and think it’s a great platform. Unfortunately when they changed over their versions from 1.5 to 3 they changed the setup so those older platforms had to do a total rework – yuck! And don’t get me started on the template issues. So I moved most of my old Joomla clients to WordPress. The big key for me switching is that when they do an upgrade, the platform doesn’t change. You don’t have to do any major overhaul to it like those old Joomla users. That was a big killer for me and my clients and so disappointing. Plus the more I’ve used WordPress, the more I’ve fallen in love with it’s ease of use and the softer more user friendly adminstrative panel.
Anyway…. update your install!
Helpful links about Joomla and WordPress
- Read the Joomla Patch announcement
- Learn more about migrating Joomla 1.5 to 3
- Learn more about your templates when migrating between Joomla versions
- WordPress features
- Can’t find anyone to help you with your Javelin CMS?
- Call your help desk rep or tech support to get support and they never call back.
- You finally get ahold of a rep and it’s going to cost a fortune to:
- You finally get a hold of a rep and not only is it going to cost a fortune but they can’t get to it for weeks?
- Can’t get FTP access to your content files? Can’t get database access?
- It’s not as user friendly as you were told.
WORDPRESS IS YOUR ANSWER!It’s super easy to manage and update. If you want to add a form field, it’s easy. Need a blog? Well WordPress is a native blogging tool. Needs a plug-in or feature? There are nearly 42K plug-ins available; most of which are free. The advantages of WordPress outshine Javelin any day! Do the research, ask around and then come back here for help. Because WordPress doesn’t suck.
I need help with my Javelin based website.
It’s that time of year. You’re planning your budget for next year. Many organizations forget what a valueable asset their website is. But if it’s not working, it can be doing more damage than good. Use this mini checklist to determine if your website needs a redesign in the upcoming year.
- Your messaging and brand isn’t clear: When potential donors or people just solely interested in your organization goes to your website, what you represent and your brand needs to be RIGHT THERE. If they have to browse around your website to understand your organization, you can lose them. They will “drop off” and move on to an organization that has a clear message and brand they can understand. By having a buttoned up presentation, it shows you know what you’re doing.
- They can’t find what they’re looking for: Don’t make people dig. Think about what you are trying to accomplish with your website. Make it easy for them to get where they want to and fast. You’ve heard the old saying “get them where they need to be in 3 clicks or less.” This is still the norm. If you can get them there in less time, then great. This can be accomplished with content that is well organized. A well thought out navigation structure is important. The last thing you want is to frustrate your visitors. Sit down with your team and organize your content. Create the right funnels for visitors.
- No clear calls to action: You don’t know how many times I’ve seen non-profit websites that don’t have a donation button on their site. Or worse yet, there is one but it’s hidden deep into your content. I recently wrote a blog post on the importance of a donation button and some of the easy ways to accomplish this. Now there are some exceptions to this. There are organizations that are really more education driven or volunteer driven. Take for example the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Although donations are important and they accept them, they are really focused on visitors to their museum. So I worked with them to make sure there were key call to action (CTA) items on every page. Everywhere you go on that website, you are able to donate, visit the museum or volunteer. Whatever your organization is focused on, there needs to be clear actionable items for visitors.
- The website is out of date: The message and content on your website should be timely. There are some items that may never change but keeping fresh and up-to-date information lets users know you are on top of your organizations needs. There’s nothing worse than going out to a website that is featuring an event on their homepage banner that’s been over for months. If you are unable to update your website because you don’t have access or there’s no one with the know how to update it, you have to come up with a solution and fast. An out-of-date website can stop people in their tracks. It can cost you a donor or volunteer. Find a reputable web designer/developer or even a volunteer that can help you either figure it or present you with another solution.
- The CMS or lack of one is just difficult to work with: This ties in with item #4. There are some CMS tools out there that are just complicated or difficult to use which can hinder the ability to update the site. You need to have something in place that’s easy for even the most technology challenged volunteer to update. I’m a fan of WordPress. It’s so easy to use and update. It’s a great alternative if you’re looking to make a change. My client Respite Care of San Antonio was dealing with this very thing. I recently upgraded them from the Joomla CMS to WordPress. Their site is now more simplified, direct and the WordPress CMS makes it so much easier to keep updated.
- It’s all together unappealing: If your website looks like it did 10 years ago, it’s time for a change. People in general are very visual. So when they come to your website you want to wow them not only with the message and brand but with “curb appeal”. Take for example, Positive Tomorrows. Their previous site was pretty plain and dated. But after I got to visit with them a bit, I was able to plan out a visual and bold design that right up front conveyed their message. When a users goes to their website, they know exactly what it’s about.
If you would like to read more articles about engaging websites, NTEN recently published an article in their quarterly magazine entitle “Four Strategic Foundations of Effective Websites” that you might find of interest.
You’ve heard time and time again – we need to make sure it’s above the fold. Have you ever wondered what that means? Where it came from? Is it valid when you’re talking about web design?
Above the fold originated with the newspaper industry. Remember those paper things people used to pick up on the street or have delivered to their home? When a newspaper is laying on the rack it’s well, folded in half. To peak the interest of potential paper buyers, editors wanted to make sure the hot, important stories were visible should someone walk by. It was to help encourage the sales of the paper. If someone saw a juicy story, they’d FOR SURE buy it.
Above the fold has migrated it’s way from newspapers to web design. I hear many times from clients “make sure it’s above the fold” or “is it above the fold”? So is it a valid comment? Before you can really focus on above the fold, you need to consider some things as it refers to your digital web presence. Once you take all things in consideration, then you can explore the term and its use a bit more. Some facts:
Mobile Users: According to W3 Schools the usage for mobile devices to browse the web continues to increase. Numerous articles from 2014 including this article from Smart Insights indicate that mobile users are surpassing desktop users. And according to this 2013 study, 67% of the population use cell phones or smartphones to browse the web.
Google in April of 2015 expanded mobile friendly sites as part of their rankings “signal”. This means that all those folks who didn’t have or don’t have mobile sites, could be effected when it comes to ranking in Google search. This of course only effected mobile searches and not desktop but if mobile users are on the rise, you can bet this plays a pretty important part.
Screen Resolution: This is how people view websites on their desktop. Screen sizes are getting bigger and bigger which means a multitude of resolutions. W3 School analyzes the various browser resolutions that people are viewing the internet with. As you can see from these numbers, it varies. This means that how your site looks to someone on an 800 pixel wide viewer and one that is 1920 pixel wide viewer can be completely different. The image to the right is a perfect example of how relatively different your screen looks from device to device. What’s visible on the desktop isn’t exactly visible on a cell phone.
So why am I telling you all this? Because above the fold is relative but it’s limited. You can’t put EVERYTHING above the fold and users SCROLL.
If your site is mobile responsive you already know the display is completely different. Some content gets hidden some content shifts. And taking in consideration the view port, it is much much smaller than a desktop screen resolution so you are very limited on what you see initially as you load the site on your device. Scrolling has become a natural function to users on smartphones. So above the fold takes on a whole different meaning when you throw mobile devices in the mix.
Okay so now what? Strategize. Plan out your design and content. Sit down with your team and discuss what’s important to you. What do you want users to accomplish when they get to the site? The first impression is important. And because statistics show more people are using mobile devices, you have to consider first how your site is going to look on a phone.
A bad user experience no matter how much you put above this invisible fold is no bueno. It won’t matter. A good designer will work with you if you help them understand your needs and the direction you want to go.
Other things to consider
Call to Action: This is the key to a successful mobile presence. What is your call to action? What is going to get users what they need right away? What is going to make users act. For example, if you’re a non-profit, consider having your donation button at the top of your website and on all pages. Or if you are a restaurant owner, making sure the menu or reservations button is at the top. Want users to call instead? Make sure your click to call phone number is at the top.
Relative Content: Instead of concentrating on the fold, focus on the content. Good, rich relevant content will cause any user to browse further. Entice them from the homepage with teasers and snippets. Use strong calls to action to promote clicks to maybe that fabulous blog post or that special event you are hosting. The fact is Google and search engines alike are looking to see if the content on your site is relevant not whether it is above the fold.
I hope this helps you understand a bit about the fold and how it applies to web design.