Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2013 was awesome and that you have big plans for 2014!
I want to start the year off by writing a post about a problem that I ran into while optimizing a client website recently. I am going to get into the habit of posting here when I find a solution to something that took me a while to figure out. In this case it had to do with Google Webmaster Tools and 404 Errors caused by the default WordPress settings.
Crawl Errors in Google Webmaster Tools
As a website owner you should already have an account setup at Google Webmaster Tools. If you need help here is a great post by Kristie Hines on setting up Google Webmaster Tools.
The first thing you should check is the Crawl Errors section. This is where Google tells you when it cannot find a page on your website; this is also known as a 404 error. You want to fix these errors quickly by either creating a page that you may have deleted or by creating a 301 redirect that tells Google and everyone else who is looking for that page to look at the new page you have identified. If you need help with how to setup 301 Redirects I suggest the Redirection plugin for Worpdress.
As you add a redirection for any 404 error that you find in Google Webmaster tools you can click a button that tells Google you have fixed that issue. Do this for each one to help let Google know things are resolved.
Strange 404’s caused by WordPress
One problem that WordPress users may run into with Google Webmaster Tools is 404 errors for pages ending with /feed/ or /page/ at the end of URLs that are valid. This confused me until I found this post from Dan Kern at Kern Media with an extensive list of how to best setup the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. If you are not using this plugin for SEO on your WordPress website you should right now.
Yoast SEO to the Rescue
Dan’s post on how to set the plugin up is a really helpful resource for understanding a lot of the features of the plugin. The main takeaway here is that you want to enable the “Noindex subpages of archives” and all for options under the “Clean up the” section in the Titles and Metas part of the plugin. Selecting these checkboxes and hitting save will make these 404 errors go away.
I hope this helps in your quest for total optimization! I would love to hear any thoughts or other ways of fixing this type of problem.