Yikes! 404!


Things change fast on the web. Pages move, sites appear and disappear, URLs change. It’s impossible to keep everything indexed and up to date. The universe of 404s keeps expanding. But a good portion of the content you’re looking for is not gone, it’s simply moved. If you know where to look, you have a good chance of finding it. Here’s how.

Step One:
Reload or refresh the page. Sometimes a 404 is just a fluke.

Step Two:
Look for obvious spelling errors in the URL. Fix them. Try switching the file extension (i.e. change .htm to .html or vice versa).

Step Three:
Back up one level in the URL, and continue backing up until you find something.


Erase everything after the last slash in the address, so you’re left with:


You may get a page or a directory listing; in either case, you should be able to find what you’re looking for or verify that it’s gone. If you don’t come up with anything at this address, try backing up again:


Step Four:
Go to the site’s main page and try to search from there. For most addresses, you would just use the first part of the address:


In addition, Google and other search engines have a feature in which you can restrict your search to one website. If you can’t find a sub-page that you believe exists, go to Google, type in search words followed by a space and site:website.com. Or go to their “advanced” search page.

Step Five:
Try to find an archived version of the page. Google offers an excellent ‘cached’ facility. If you’re searching for a page and it comes up a 404, try clicking the ‘cached’ link instead. Not only will Google often have a saved copy of the page, they will also highlight your search terms.

The Wayback Machine offers a similar service, in that you can enter a URL and view a page or site ‘as it once was’.

Step Six:
Leave a comment on the site, or write to the webmaster. If nothing else, you’ll be doing them a favor by making them aware of the broken link: webmaster@website.com

Step Seven:
Write to the webmaster of the referring page, or use their form for reporting broken links. Again, this might not help you find the page you’re looking for, but at least you may be saving other people the trouble.