Turn Harmful 404 Error Pages Into Helpful 301 Redirects
By Tony Simpson
It's a fact, Page Not Found, known as a 404
error, can harm your website Ranking with Search
Engines as well as being a turn-off for visitors.
A search engine that repeatedly gets a 404 error
will de-list the page from its index. Too many
404 error pages on your website and its ranking
with the search engines will suffer.
Visitors are always just one click away from
clicking to another search and another website.
Present them with a page not found 404 error and
these days they'll not stick around long enough
to search for your missing page.
How Many 404 Error Pages Do You Have Right Now
on Your Website?
Unless you check your web stat error logs
regularly you'll never know just how many 404
error pages your site has. Even if you don't
have a single 404 error right now, I can
absolutely guarantee you'll get them.
How Can I Avoid 404 Error Pages?
The simple answer is you can't, a 404 error can
not be avoided.
* They happen when you rename a page.
* They happen if you delete a page.
* They happen if you change the page file
extension i.e. htm to html or php.
*They happen if you move a page to another location.
*They happen if other sites link to pages which
*They happen if visitors have bookmarked pages
that no longer exist.
*They happen if visitors mistype a URL.
How is a 301 Redirect Helpful?
A 301 redirect enable you to send you visitor or
the search engine to any replacement page you
specify. A 301 redirect is also important
because it's what's known as a permanent
redirect. A permanent redirect is the one
preferred by search engines so they are the only
ones you should use if you want your website to
be search engine friendly.
How Do I Setup a 301 Redirect?
Basically there are two ways to setup a search
engine friendly redirect. One is by directly
modifying what's known as the .htaccess file
found in the root directory of your website
where your web pages are stored.
The second way is to use a software redirect
script. The advantage of using a redirect script
is that you can setup and maintain any number of
301 redirect 's through a control panel.
You can also do very clever and helpful things
that will make your website even more friendly
to visitors and the search engines, but more of
that in the 2nd Part of this article.
Setting Up a 301 Redirect Manually
First let's deal with modifying the .htaccess
file to setup a redirect manually just so you
know what's required. Then I'll tell you a much
simpler way to do this and a whole lot more.
First you must find the .htaccess file on your
web server. There could be more than one, but
you need to locate the one in the same directory
as your web pages.
On some web hosts the .htaccess file is hidden,
it's there but you just can't see it listed when
you FTP to your host. On most web servers it's
visible, so I'm only going to deal with the
visible file. Download the .htaccess file as
ASCII not Binary to your PC then open it with a
text editor like Notepad or Textpad, not Word.
In the .htaccess file, type the following line
but substituting your locations for the missing
and replacement files shown in  brackets,
excluding the brackets.
Redirect 301 [relative URL of missing file]
[complete URL of replacement file ]
Redirect 301 /directory/discover.html
For every other redirect required you must add a
new line of code to the .htaccess file then FTP
to upload it as an ASCII file back to the same
location you downloaded it from.
If all this sounds quite complicated, you'd be
right, it can be, but life gets a whole lot
easier in the 2nd part of this article Setting
Up a 301 Redirect with Redirect Script Software.
[Look out for Part 2 of Tony's article next
<> Copyright © 2005 by Tony Simpson. Tony
advises on the use of automation in website
design, promotion and optimization via his site Web Page Add
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It's been an interesting month. Keyword
Thies freaked me out the other day when he
told me one of my domains had a "dupe content
problem" in Google. "Wha wha WHAAAAAAT?", I
shrieked. Dan then calmly pointed me to his blog
post about the Dupe
Domain Indexing Dilemma and explained that
both the www version of my site and the version
without the www were being indexed by Google,
potentially attracting a duplicate content
penalty and certainly diluting my hard-earned
link popularity. Turned out I was competing with
my own site for rankings!
The problem lies in server configuration.
Most servers are designed to show both versions
of a web site to searchers, but this can cause
some search engines (including Google) to index
and treat both versions as separate sites -
ouch! The solution? Implementing a 301 permanent
redirect in your .htaccess file. Choose a
default domain version and redirect the other
version to it. The full redirect code is
available from Dan's blog post above, but be
warned, it WILL break any Front Page CGI scripts
and corrupt FP extensions unless you add the
additional code below:
It all ended happily, after much grunting and FP
extension breaking, I managed to implement the
redirect and resolve the issue. Thanks Dan!
Could YOUR site suffer from the Dupe Domain
Indexing Dilemma? To check, go to Google.com and
type in a search for both
versions of your domain by using the "site"
query: "site:http://www.yoursite.com" and
"site:http://yoursite.com". If you see a
different number of pages from each version
listed, you've got DDID! Get that .htaccess
entry in ASAP.
Speaking of technical issues, this month's
feature article by Tony Simpson explains how to
convert 404 Errors into traffic-saving 301
redirects. Look out for Part 2 of Tony's article
Enjoy this issue and remember to visit the
Search Engine Advice Column daily to check
answers to frequently asked questions about
search engines. You can even submit one of your own!
Till next time - wishing you high rankings...
|FAQ1: Why Isn't Yahoo Indexing All My Pages?|
My site is 6 months old and I've just gotten out
of the Google sandbox for certain terms. But I
can't get anywhere with Yahoo. In March they
indexed 45 of my (then) 75 pages. Now, only my
homepage is indexed out of my 116 pages. I've
written to them; they've been crawling my site
but nothing has changed so far. What has
happened? I'm much too dumb to use a lot of
tricks (cloaking etc), my content is quite
unique, no one could consider my site spammy and
I've checked and you're right. Yahoo appears to
only have your home page listed. Because you
have actually had multiple pages listed in Yahoo
and now they're gone, I'd have a hard think
about what you have changed about your site
since then. For example:
1) Have you changed your robots.txt file?
2) Have you changed your directory structure?
3) Have you changed your navigation or linking
4) Have you ended a major PPC advertising
5) Have you recently participated in a link
6) Have you had your site optimized recently?
7) Have you changed hosts or IP addresses
Any of these things may have triggered the issue
but I'd need to know more detail. I can't see
any immediate problem with your code or site,
but I only had time for a quick glance. You've
got over 100 other sites linking to you,
according to Yahoo.
One thing I did notice is that your site is not
included in the Yahoo! Directory. Some people
swear that Yahoo
Directory submission is well worth the
USD299 as they claim it impacts the regular
indexing of their site and sends them more
traffic because many people search the directory
You could also try Yahoo's other
submission options ranging from their free
Add URL to paid inclusion via XML feed. Also
consider using their pay
per click service if you want immediate
traffic and are willing to pay for it.
|FAQ2: Where can I find lists of European search engines?|
I have a client that is trying to target
particular European countries with his travel
websites. I have optimized the sites for
keyphrases and now I want to submit them to all
the search engines I can find in the countries
he targets. Do you know where I can find
reliable lists of European search engines?
Not in Europe
Hello PPC Newbie
Dear "Not in Europe",
You won't need to submit to the spidering search
engines like Google or MSN, as they should have
already indexed the various sites and will show
the relevant domain version to searchers in
those countries. But you might want to consider
submitting the regional domains to the Yahoo
Directory via paid submission. Also, try to
submit the sites to as many relevant directories
and niche travel sites in those countries as
possible. Below are some good sources to start with:
of Worldwide Search Engines and Directories
Search Engine Database
Engine Guide Search Engines Directory
Before submitting, you might also like to read
Submit Your Site to Search Engines
Submit Your Site to Directories
|FAQ 3: How can I improve my ROI from Google AdSense?|
I have been using AdSense ads on my site for
about a year now and have only achieved a very
modest income from them. Could you have a look
at my site and tell me what I'm doing wrong? How
I can improve things to encourage more clicks?
Dear AdSense Dummy
I don't give free site consultations because I
charge clients for this service. But I can point
you towards a couple of AdSense resource sites I
stumbled upon this week:
to Boost Your AdSense Revenue
AdSense Tips, Tricks and Secrets
|Send Kalena Your Search Engine Question!|
| ||Gobsmacked by Google? Mad at MSN? Got a
burning question about search engines in
me your question and it might feature in my Search
Engine Advice Column or the next issue of
The Search Light.
I regret I can't give personal replies, but
anonymous submissions are welcome.