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Monitoring those “Page Not Found” errors on your website

Yesterday I talked about your website “page not found” message …but how many people even see this? And if a lot more people suddenly start seeing it, will you ever know? One way of keeping an eye on the situation is to monitor it using Google Analytics, and here’s how.

Let’s see how many people saw your 404 message last month. First of all, find the address of the page which is served up when people type in something which doesn’t exist (you’ll need a specific page to be served up for this to work). Let’s say it’s “404.html” or something like that (your details will vary). Just go to Behavior (sic) > Site Content > All Pages and type “404” in the search box. You should see how many “page not found” messages were served up. If you see none, look again at the “page not found” URL on your site and see what it actually does contain, then amend your search accordingly.

More usefully, however, let’s set up a “warning email” which you’ll get if the number of error messages being served suddenly shoots up. This will alert you to a problem.

Firstly, we’ll set up a “goal” of the 404 page having been reached. Go to “Admin” at the top, then make sure you have the appropriate “View” selected from the dropdown. Click “Goals” and “New Goal”. Name it “404 page” and click “Destination”, then “Next Step”. Select “Begins with” and enter “404”, then “Create Goal”. Make a note of what the Goal Number is (e.g “Goal 2”).

Then we set up our “Alert”. Select “Custom Alerts” and “New Alert”. Call your alert “Page Not Found Rising!” or something like that. Select the period you want to compare your “pages not found” over – I pick “Week”. Tick “Send me an email”, noting that the email will go to the Google Account under which you’re signed in, so you may want to add another email. Set the bottom line to be “Alert me when” “Goal 2” (or whatever) “% increases by more than” “25%” (or whatever) “compared to” “Previous week” (or whatever). Click “Save Alert” and you’re done!

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