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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.
We are aware you are experiencing some extended down time. Please read the FAQ below for details and how to proceed moving forward. 1. What happened to my site and email? On Thursday, June 21st, we suffered a loss of your server due to a RAID server failing and when they replaced it, our hosting server team, a second server failed. The data is irretrievable, and all websites and blogs are not recoverable. All database backup methods were lost. We immediately hired a 3rd party consultant to assist us in navigating in the email recovery, making sure that what we were told was accurate and helping with backup data recovery expertise. We have met this circumstance with the utmost urgency and have been working around the clock as a team to try and respond to inquiries and get things resolved.What? Irretrievable? Not recoverable? This is completely unacceptable in my book. Will you all be compensated for this loss? I’m not sure. Their website states:
We are aware that some clients are experiencing continued downtime. The RAID array has failed on this server and we are still in the process of restoring all accounts at this time. We are acutely aware of the inconvenience this has caused you, and we are doing all we can to ensure a timely solution. We are experiencing extremely high ticket volume, and this is causing a bit of a backlog, if at all possible, do not submit multiple follow-ups. We will post updates on this page as they become available. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. http://www.bludomain.com/support/Which according to the email my customer received is a complete contradiction. But read it carefully, they are “restoring accounts” doesn’t mean they are restoring data or content. So it appears you’re lucky that you got email back. And it’s been said that they have turned off messaging on their Facebook and are likely monitoring comment posts and some folks are unable to reach anyone to actually talk to. So the bad news, you can’t unring a bell. You have to unfortunately move forward and start over. UPDATE 6/27/2018 — Got a recent update that you might be able to retrieve you images but your databases are gone as they were corrupted. So basically if you used a CMS like Joomla or WordPress you’re in a big pickle. How about the e-commerce folks? This is just bad bad bad. ——
I can help get your BluDomain site back up! Sort of….Unfortunately what you had is likely lost. I can help get you a WordPress site up quickly on reliable hosting with BACKUPS. We can have a chat about what content you do have and what content I might be able to retrieve from the web through some resources out there. It won’t be exact to what you had but it will be something to get you back in business. With have over 20 years in the business working with a ton of non-profits and for-profit companies. So please feel free to call me or shoot me a text at (469) 322-9745 and we can get moving! You can also use the form below to reach me.
- 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.
In my previous post we talked about 6 easy steps to get started on blogging. One of those steps included finding a platform to blog on. In this post, I’ll show you just how easy it is to write a blog using WordPress. This is going to assume you’ve already loaded up WordPress and picked out a template.
It’s actually pretty simple…. JUST DO IT! Gotta love Nike for that awesome tagline. So let me explain.
The web is truly an endless deep hole of information. Some of which is useful, some not. I literally one day saw a video about this huge jumping spider on Facebook. I then went to Google and started Googling spiders. I looked at all kinds of photos. Mind you, I hate spiders. Those images, took me to YouTube where I went down another rabbit hole of camel spider videos. I think I spent at least 2 hours reading and watching useless information about spiders. Did I say I hated them?
Whats’s my point? People like to read and they like to read online. And they like to read just about anything as long as it interests them at the time.
You still haven’t answered how do I blog?
Write about what you love and what you know. Here are 6 easy steps to get the ball rolling:
- What do you have a passion for? It doesn’t really matter what you write about. The key is writing about what you love. When you do that, you can’t go wrong. If you enjoy a topic or subject, it really becomes easy.
- Brainstorm ideas for topics: Let’s say you have a passion for food. Well right there you have a huge opportunity and have now narrowed down what you will write on. Think about it. You can start off sharing some of your favorite recipes. Then maybe you expand to writing reviews about restaurants you visited. Oh man, now you’re cooking. Cooking, get it. What about the history of certain foods? See what I mean: an endless rabbit hole of information.
- Plan out your posts: Next step is plan out your posts. And this can be very informal. Take a notepad and scribble down some topics in more detail. Topics sometime come to me randomly and I just whip out my Notes on my iPhone and jot them down. Once you get some ideas, plan out how often you want to write. Take in consideration your schedule. The key is be consistent. As you get folks who have an interest, they’ll expect some consistent blogs – and there’s no right or wrong answer. If you only get 1 out a month, then you get it out. If you can find you can do it more often, then great. You just don’t want to go stagnant.
- Find a platform: You’re going to need a platform to post all your great ideas on. WordPress is ideal for blogging. It originated as a blogging platform and has progressed to a great web design tool. Matter of fact, it’s the primary CMS I use when I do design and development for my clients. You could use WordPress.com and set one up there, but I recommend hosting your own version of WordPress. You’ll get a lot more benefit from doing that like SEO options and a unique URL. Most hosts out there now when you sign up, have a WordPress managed hosting which literally can cost under $5 a month. SiteGround offers managed wordpress hosting starting out at $3.95 a month which is excellent for the everyday blogger. When you sign up, they’ll offer to do an install for you. Once it’s done, you can browser through all the free themes and load one up and just starting writing. WordPress is easy and simple to use. You can’t go wrong if you use it for your blogs. If you’ve got a little more flexibility in your budget, WP Engine is another great choice. They offer a lot of great features including on-the-fly backups. I generally will use this for mid-large size websites but they also have a $29 a month for personal bloggers. In then end, you might pay a bit more but peace of mind to me is always more important. I will cover this more in a later blog post on finding the right host and why it’s important.
- Start writing: Yep, start putting your words to paper or computer rather. Be as casual or formal as you’d like. Again, there’s no wrong or right way to do it. I’m a pretty casual person and that is reflected in my writing but I find I’m more comfortable writing in that style. But if you feel like your blog is going to be very business focused, you might consider the tone before you publish it. The point is start writing. The great thing about WordPress is you can put everything in a “draft” status until you’re ready to make it public. That way you can keep coming back and fine-tuning the content.
- Share. Share. Share. Once you’ve written your first blog, share it with everyone! Post a link to your blog on your Facebook page and Twitter. Got Instagram or Pinterest? Use an interesting photo to post to those accounts and point people to your site. A picture is worth a thousand words. Be creative with hashtags to draw interest from people that want to know more about your AWESOME TOPIC! Your friends are going to be your biggest advocate. So using them to get the word out is going to increase traffic as well as interest.
I hope these 6 steps on how to blog helps steer you in the right direction. Write about what you love and HAVE FUN doing it!
So this last weekend, I headed to Dallas to get my nerd on and learn about more about WordPress at the DFW WordCamp. This was my first WordCamp and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I scanned the topics and found a specific few that I wanted to attend. I learned some very interesting things. There were also a lot of things that were just good reminders and refreshers as a business owner and designer. Here are some highlights of a few:
Freelance Survival School, presented by James Dalman: I think this was a great way to start WordCamp. As a business owner, it can be tough. He really shared some things that we all know but needed to hear again. His presentation was wrapped around the analogy of a survivalist. Some key things he mentioned:
- Focus on what you’re good at. Don’t try to be all to everyone
- Keep your head on straight. Watch your mental health.
- It’s the circumstances in your heart that prevents you from being successful. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
- My favorite part: You need to believe in yourself to sell. Even if you suck, you can sell it for a million dollars if you have confidence and believe in yourself and what you provide. Clients can sense if you don’t.
- Be weary of bad clients. Dont be afraid to say no and don’t take on every client.
It was a good presentation and I think started the day off on a positive note.
Leveling up with Documentation, presented by Pat Ramsey: Man we are all guilty of this – not properly documenting. This seemed to focus more toward developers but was good information for project managers or anyone doing strategy with clients. He broke down the documentation like this:
- Operational documentation – how do you get into the website, how do you get to hosting, documenting the workflow.
- Development – are we using any code libraries? What did we use? How did we use it? Put together some sort of step by step.
- Calendars – put everything on the calendar, rignt away. Schedule follow ups. During the kick off, immediately schedule a follow up. Calendar reminders help keep things in the forefront.
- Patterns and Trends – By documenting, it helps keep you from reworking something over and over. It also give you the ability to reuse, especially if you find several clients have requested the same thing. By documenting those steps, it allows you to grow and be more efficient. Picking up on these patterns will help.
- After action reports – What were your challenges? How did you solve it. By going back and rehasing the project you learn from your mistakes.
During the question and answer session, I presented the question to the room about scope creep. I was interested in seeing what everyone’s experience was with it. I was more addressing the early documentation stage, the requirements and how you handle it if something was missed. The overall response was that if it’s out of scope you really have no easy way to have that discussion. It just has to be addressed with the client and an honest assessment has to be done.
The CIA Mindset – Planning security for your WordPress website, presented by David Brumbaugh: Well we all know security is a big issue with ANY website you build. WordPress is actually one of the most secure CMS tools out there which also makes it a target. David highlighted
70% of WordPress sites are vulnerable for one bad policy decision – they fail to stay current on the most recent install.
That is such a TRUE statement. So many clients, rely on you to build and design the site but when it’s all over with, they don’t realize the importance of the post-launch maintenance. It is SUPER important to keep your core install of WordPress up-to-date as well as the plug-ins that might be used on the site. Here are some other key points from his presentation:
- No system is secure from a particularly motivated hacker. How much though or effort are you willing to put into it to make it tougher and not worth their time to bother your site.
- Clients will blame you whether it’s your fault/responsibility or not because you built it.
- If you’re not using a plugin, delete it. Code exploits can happen even if the plugin isn’t activated.
SIDE NOTE: It is okay to load plug-ins, test them out and see if they work. But this is important – if you’re not gonna use it, delete it.
Conclusion: This was a great little event. WordCamp is hosted in cities all around the world. You can find one in your area by going to the WordCamp website. It’s inexpensive and can be really helpful for anyone using WordPress or considering using WordPress as their CMS. And each one is different. So if you go to one in Dallas, the one in Austin is going to be completely different so it’s a cool concept. Lastly, it’s super inexpensive, around $20 for the day.
So consider WordCamp the next time you are looking for some good overall information.