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Page 404 and GA4. Search, analysis, monitoring, and editing

#Google Ads
4/22/2024
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Page 404 and GA4. Search, analysis, monitoring, and editing

In Google Analytics 4, you can easily find data about 404 pages. If you want to get a detailed analysis of the most famous error on the Internet, you need to create a custom report. However, not all 404 errors deserve attention.

Let's find out why.

What is a 404 error?

A 404 error is a server error that occurs when a visitor lands on a web page that does not exist. To inform users about an error, you can create a 404 page.

An alternative is to redirect visitors to the main page automatically. This is the easiest but not the most ideal way to increase visitor engagement.

Imagine booking a hotel room, but when you enter the door, you again find yourself in the hotel lobby. This is the hyperbolized equivalent of redirecting users to the home page instead of showing them a 404 page like Google's page.

404 server error or response code

Find the page's title if your site has a special 404 page.

That's all you need to find 404 error cases in GA4.

Note that the name is arbitrary. On your site, it might be something else:

— Page not found

— The page is not available

— Oh! A 404 error occurred

— etc.

It is also important that this page title is unique and not used on other pages.

How to find 404 pages in GA4?

If you know the name of the 404 error page, there are 4 steps left to find pages that are not found in Google Analytics 4.

1) Open the "Pages and Screens" report 

How to find 404 broken pages in Google Analytics 4?

To do this, go to Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens in GA4.

2) Select Page title and screen class as an option

How to find 404 broken pages in Google Analytics 4?

You can change the main report setting. For the 404 page, make sure you select the Page title and screen class as the primary parameter.

3) Select Page path and screen class as a secondary parameter

How to find 404 broken pages in Google Analytics 4?How to find 404 broken pages in Google Analytics 4?

Click the “+” icon next to the main option and go to Page/screen> Page path and screen class.

4) Find the title of your 404 page

How to find 404 broken pages in Google Analytics 4?

Type the name of your 404 page in the search box and press Enter

This method is quite simple, but it only gives you a list of pages that don't exist but users tried to visit them.

How to track 404 pages in GA4?

A custom report is the best option in GA4 to analyze and monitor 404 pages. To create it from scratch, follow these steps:

1) Create a new report:

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Click Exploration (Exploration) in the menu on the left and then on the big plus sign.

Select an empty template.

2) Give your report an arbitrary name

In my case, it is: Page 404

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

3) Click on the “+” sign to add options

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Since the report is empty, we need to add parameters to it.

4) Add parameters

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

On the Predefined tab, go to Page/screen and select these 3 options:

Page path/screen class 

Page referrer

Page title (Page title)

Also, scroll to Event and select Event name

Then click the blue Import button to add the parameters to your report

5) Create rows

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Drag the following two parameters to the Raws field in the tab settings panel.

Page path and Screen class: The part of the URL that does not exist.

Page Referrer: Where did the error occur? This can be an external domain or your site's URL

6) Add filters to the report

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Drag the two specified options into the filter field in the tab's settings panel:

Event name (Event name)

Page title (Page title)

7) Adjust the filters

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

For the Page title filter, use the value of your 404 page. This can be, for example, page not found, page not available, error 404, etc.

Use 'exact match' and 'page_view' for the event filter as we only need these events in the report.

Click Apply below both filters.

8) Add the number of events indicator

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

A metric is all that's currently missing to populate your 404 report.

Click the plus sign in the Metrics field in the Variables panel.

9) Import the metric for the report

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Select Event count in the Events section and click the blue Import button.

10) Drag the metric into the value field

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

Drag the number of events from the Metrics field in the Variable panel to the Value field in the tab settings panel.

Now your report shows the data:

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

If you don't see anything, it could mean that:

— Something is done wrong

— No one hit the 404 page within the selected date range

Your 404 report is ready, and you can access it in the future via the custom reports tab.

Tracking, finding, and monitoring 404 error pages in GA4 is not too difficult. It is more difficult to identify problems and set priorities. And it can be a little more complicated.

How to use a 404 error report in GA4?

The best way to fix a 404 error is to understand what's causing it. There are 3 reasons, but you only have complete control over one of them.

Let's start with the errors that you can solve. Next, I will explain how.

Internal broken links

Internal links link to your domain(s) page. If the link URL does not exist, the link does not work, and the server receives a 404 error.

The GA4 report gives you the first clue on which pages to find these links. You can add the Link domain filter and select only your domain.

How to track broken pages on a site in GA4?

If you find problems, please visit the page and check all the links on it to find the broken one.

Tip: You can use browser extensions, plugins, and broken link detectors online to find potential problems quickly. Some solutions proactively monitor your site and alert you when a link is down.

GA4 logs these errors only when they occur. This is not as effective an approach as preventive actions.

Google Search Console does the same but emails you when this happens. This is another good reason to use both GSC and GA4.

External incoming links are broken.

External links from other domains. You can't fix these broken links yourself if you don't own or control them.

A special type of external link is the link in your emails, PDF files, etc. In GA4, you can track them with UTM tags.

Depending on the source of the traffic or the site on which the link to your page is located, the impact can be:

— So what? For example, a link from a low-authority domain won't generate much traffic or boost your SEO

— OH MY GOD. Links from search engines, for example, to pages that do not exist are pure horror. The same goes for social media links, which usually drive tons of traffic to your page.

User errors in the URL

Users enter URLs, which can cause a 404 error. Especially on smartphones, it's easy to make mistakes. This is one of the reasons why QR codes can be marketing specialists' best friends.

These errors are not critical, but you can still try to prevent them with some good URL techniques:

DO NOT MIX UPPERCASE AND LOWERCASE LETTERS IN YOUR URLS

Use hyphens instead of underscores

In GA4, these errors usually do not have a page link.

How to fix a 404 error?

There are 3 ways to fix a 404 error. The best solution depends on the size of your site and the cause of the error.

Remove the link

— This is an easy way, but not always the best.

You must have access to remove the link. If you do not own the resource that contains the link, you will depend on others' goodwill to do so.

— A button without a link causes frustration for users.

— Internal links contribute to SEO (search engine optimization). Their removal may affect the ranking of other pages.

Change the link

This is the best option if:

— The URL contains a typographical error (for example, www.yoursite..com/contakt

— The landing page no longer exists. In that case, your best bet is to look for a page that is closely related to the original. Changing the anchor text of the link can also be helpful

— You don't have a large site with many pages

— Or the error doesn't occur on many pages, but it's still worth fixing. For example, it is best not to have broken links on paid campaign landing pages. It's a detail, but it helps you achieve the highest possible ROI

— You can change the link. Again, if someone, for example, on social media, links to your web page with an incorrect URL, you rely on others to correct the error

Redirect the page to another page.

You can redirect to another page instead of going through all your pages and links. This is called a 301 redirect, which is useful if:

— The landing page has been permanently deleted

— You have a large site and many links pointing to a page that no longer exists

— The original page was ranked in the search results. If you set up a 301 redirect, Google and others will automatically receive the changed address. Users will also be taken to a redirect page.

Damage control

Despite your best efforts, a 404 error is unavoidable. The best thing you can do for your visitors and yourself is to:

— Use a custom 404 page (instead of using the default pages or redirecting to the home page)

How to use 404 server response report in GA4?

— Show a message that tells your users that the page is not found, does not exist, or is not available.

— Make it easy for them to find the content they seek. You can include the main sections of your site, a sitemap, or even a better search box

Summary 

GA4 is just one tool for finding and monitoring 404 pages and errors.

While there are much more reliable tools for tracking page not found errors, it's still worth setting up this report in GA4.

Not everyone on your team has access to all website monitoring tools. You get an additional free monitoring tool when you create a report in GA4, and you can add other parameters to your 404 error research. This allows you to focus on the broken links that are causing you the most damage or track 404 errors over time.

The author of the article

Serhii Popovych

Serhii Popovych

Google Ads Team Lead

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