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Tracking 404 errors with Google Analytics

Tracking 404 errors with Google Analytics

‘404 error page’ – These 3 words can be a nightmare for a developer and sad face for a website user. Often users lose interest when they see a 404, therefore it is essential for websites to regularly track these errors and fix them before losing out on the potential conversions or should I say, potential long-term customers. One can make a creative 404 page to avoid the drop-off, but again, it all starts with the identification of error pages. In this blog, I will be discussing about finding 404 error pages with Google Analytics. Also, there are a few examples of creative 404 pages at the end.

What are 404?

Before directly jumping to the tracking part, let us have a little more knowledge on 404 errors. This error often occurs when one follows a broken link or mistypes the URL of the page. Both for easy identification as well as for SEO purpose keeping a separate 404 page is considered one of the best practices to date. A few points to keep in mind when dealing with these pages are as follows:

  • The 404 page should always load on a false URL and should not have a separate URL.
  • Whenever a URL is called which doesn’t exist should show 404 error and not any other code such as 200 or 301.
  • The title of the page should contain “404” or “page not found” by which one can identify the page in Google Analytics.

GA Custom Reports for Identification

Creating and analyzing a few custom reports in Google Analytics can help you identify and fix 404 errors.

1. Custom report for errors from internal pages

In this report, we’ll identify the previous page (internal) from which the user was directed to the 404 page. To ensure that the tracking is set up for 404 error page, a filter is applied on the Page Title.

  • Go to Customization > Custom Reports in Google Analytics and create a new custom report.
  • Select the flat table tab.
  • Dimensions to be added: Page, Previous Page Path, and Page Title.
  • Metrics to be added: Unique Pageviews.
  • Filter1: Previous Page Path > Exclude > Regex > entrance
  • Filter2: Page Title > Include > Regex > 404



2. Custom report for error page from external sources

In this report, we will identify the external links from which the users were directed to the 404 page. To ensure that the tracking is set up for 404 error page, a filter is applied on the Page Title.

Go to Customization > Custom Reports in Google Analytics and create a new custom report.

  • Select the flat table tab.
  • Dimensions to be added: Page, Full Referrer, and Page Title.
  • Metrics to be added: Unique Pageviews.
  • Filter1: Previous Page Path > Include > Regex > entrance
  • Filter2: Page Title > Include > Regex > 404

This is how you can use Google Analytics as your broken link checker.

Most of the times, these custom reports are enough to identify the 404 error pages. For further analysis, one can also utilize Google Search Console.

How to fix 404 errors

Here, I have listed out the methods to fix the issue of 404 pages:

  1. Redirecting 404 pages: You can redirect the 404 pages to some other page. For eg. If people are coming to “/orthopedics”, you can redirect them to “/orthopedic”.
  2. Restoration of deleted pages: If you have removed a page from your website and traffic is still landing to that page, you can try restoring those pages.
  3. Case sensitivity of URI: 404 errors are often caused due to the mistyping of the link. This issue can be avoided by designing the server in such a way that it preprocesses all the URLs as lowercase (as per your convenience).

Creative 404 pages

Users are more pleased when they find a page with a pinch of humor than a bland grey page. Putting in your creativity while making these error pages can save you from losing out on visitors. Rather one should make such pages which make them inquisitive to explore more options on your website. As promised, I have listed down few of the most creative 404 page designs I have come across.

  1. Hoppermagic – http://www.hoppermagic.com/404

 

  1. Icon Finder – https://www.iconfinder.com/404notfound

  1. Airbnb – https://www.airbnb.com/404

  2. Emirates – https://www.emirates.com/404


 

 

Creative 404 pages can be a great way from losing out on potential customers or partners. Adding a little humor and entertainment will help in a great way. So go ahead and satisfy your creative souls while making some awesome 404 page designs.

That’s all folks! I hope you guys found my article useful.

Happy Learning!

Posted by Vishal Bhatia / Posted on 14 Aug
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