Web sites let you know when you’ve reached an address that does not exist with a 404 error, which is webspeak for “page not found.”
Knowing what pages generate this error is quite useful. Over time, content accumulates on your site, then can disappear or move. Meanwhile, your website and the internet overall continue to grow every year.
Google Analytics collects all sorts of information, including 404 errors. In a few steps, you can create a report showing what pages your site’s visitors are trying to reach but do not exist. You can use this information to improve user experience and your site’s overall effectiveness.
On Your Website
- Make sure your site has a dedicated 404 page. This varies system by system, but, for example, if you are using WordPress, you want to make sure you have a 404 template file installed.
- Know what text shows in the title bar when a visitor receives the error. You can fake an error by entering a nonexistant page, e.g. yoursite.com/abc123
- If it’s not already installed, add Google Analytics tracking code on your site.
In Google Analytics
- Go to Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages.
- On the All Pages screen, click on Page Title.
- Next, search for your 404 page’s title.
- Add the secondary dimension of Behavior -> Destination Page.
With these parameters entered, you will see a list of urls that are turning up 404 errors and how often visitors hit the nonexistent pages.
You can easily add a shortcut to this report by clicking Shortcut at the top of the page. This report then shows in the left-hand navigation under Shortcuts.
What Can I Do With This Information?
- Consider improving your 404 error page with a search box or contact form.
- For pages that are obviously typos or are leading to pages that have moved, setup a redirect.