Ideally, we want to set things up so Sue User never hits a 404 error at all. It is a good
policy to go through your server logs on a regular basis and grep for lines
indicating that a user has encountered a 404. If you notice a disturbing
trend (say, a lot of failed hits to "contnets.html"), it's quite likely
that users are following an incorrect link that points to that nonexistent
page. If the bad link is on your site, no problem: fix it. If the users are
all being misdirected by some other site, email that site's webmaster ASAP,
using the referrer info from your server log. If you have no referrer info
in your server log, you can search on Google for the source of a broken
link, by typing the following into their search box:
This will show every page indexed by Google that contains a link to that
nonexistent page. Other search engines offer a similar feature. Also, there
are a number of third-party link
auditing tools that you may find useful.
You may also want to create an interim "contnets.html" page that redirects
users to the correct location.
If you shift things around on your site and break links on a regular basis:
then stop doing that immediately. Even if you update all your internal links
correctly, users may have bookmarked pages and will get very confused and
depressed when their bookmarks cease to work as expected. If you just can't help it, at least leave a marker page at the old
location of a moved file, explaining what's happened and why, and redirecting
users to the new file location, like a friendly Detour sign.
dynamically generated links can be a subtle but pernicious source of
errors. Good site planning can avert most such difficulties. Finally, use common sense. If you have short, simple URLs, users are more
likely to type them in correctly the first time. Remember that URLs are
Try as we may to steer users exactly where we want them, it's inevitable
that they will hit the occasional 404 page. When that happens, the ball is
once again in our court. So let's take a swing at the problem.