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Causes of broken links, and how to fix them

1. URL misspelling

The human factor is the most common cause of broken internal links on any site.

An incorrect URL in the menu, a missed letter or character, or incorrect spelling will all generate a 404 error. Site visitors cannot find the needed information by following this link, and the search engine is constantly redirected to the broken link, since it refers to your own website.

A perfect and easiest solution is to correct the mistake with a proper link amendment.

2. Change of the site structure

Any global changes in the site structure (when you cannot keep the old structure or implement the recommendations for correct redirect installation), a website redesign, moving to another CMS, etc. can produce many pages with 404 errors.

For example, all references previously appeared as

After the changes, they will appear as

The perfect solution that helps to avoid errors is a permanent set-up of a 301 (preferably) or 302 temporary redirect.

Thus, when trying to access the page site you will be redirected to a new page,

In this case, you will not lose any customers or your search engine result position (SERP). If a 301 redirect is implemented, the old page will be combined with the new page after a while, still maintaining all the relevant references and back links.

If the 301 (or any other) redirect is not implemented, the information on the old link will no longer be available and accessing it will result in the 404 error.

3. Content no longer exists (permanently or temporarily).

Most often, this problem occurs with eCommerce sites if a certain product or group of products is sold out, permanently withdrawn from sale, or intended for seasonal selling only. Sometimes, a product URL mistake after changes in the product name or SKU can cause a 404 error. Also, some products can be withdrawn from publishing or hidden for a time (e.g. seasonally).

Fixing solutions:
  • Keep the temporary not for sale (or out of stock) product page available and do not remove it from the publishing. At the same time, you can specify that the item is temporarily not available, and offer a product availability alert subscription
  • Instead the products and categories that withdrawn from a range forever you can find similar products and add redirects to them. If such products do not exist, choose similar goods or similar product categories. As a last resort, you can use a redirect to the home page, or display an informative template on 404 pages and recommend other products.
  • Products or category pages with an amended URL can be 301-redirected to a "new" page with the correct URL.

If installing the redirects is not possible or there are no pages which can be used for redirecting, the main recommendation is to create a custom 404 template.

More about broken links

What is 404 error

The definition of "404 error not found"

Why to check broken links

How broken links can damage your online business

Customized 404 templates

Creative design and hints for 404 templates