Google Now Helps You Clean Up 404 Links

Google logoGoogle has just announced the easiest way to obtain inbound links to your site in a short space of time.

Webmaster Tool’s new Crawl Error Sources feature allows you to identify the sources of 404 Not Found errors that are found on your site. Listed next to “Crawl Errors” in the Webmaster Tools control panel, you’ll now find a “Linked From” column that lists the number of pages that link to a specific “Not found” URL on your site.  Clicking on an item in the “Linked From” column opens a separate dialog box which lists each page that links to this URL (both internal and external) along with the date it was discovered. You can even download all your crawl error sources to an Excel file.

If your webserver doesn’t comprehend 404s or fetch error pages very well, Google has also introduced a widget for Apache or IIS that consists of 14 lines of JavaScript that you can paste into your custom 404 page template to helps your visitors find what they’re looking. It provides suggestions based on the incorrect URL.

You can use the “Linked From” source information to fix the broken links in your site, place redirects to a more appropriate URL on your site and/or contact the webmasters linking to missing pages or using malformed links and ask them to fix the links.

Webmasters have been asking for something like this for a long time, so it’s a relief to see it live at last. The official post about the feature is on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog and Matt Cutts goes into more detail on his blog.

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