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October 14, 2008

Google Webmaster Tools Now Reveals Crawl Error Sources

Big news from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog today.

For years, webmasters have been asking Google for a way to identify the sources of 404 Not Found errors that are listed in the “Crawl Errors” feature of Webmaster Tools.  This week, they’ve added a “Linked From” column that lists the number of pages that link to a specific “Not found” URL.  Clicking on an item in the “Linked From” column opens a separate dialog box which lists each page that linked 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. You can read the official post about the feature here.

Why is this helpful? Well, you can use the 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. For those of you who aren’t familiar with 404 errors, Matt Cutts has a more detailed post on the new feature.

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.

The new Crawl Error Sources feature has got to be the easiest way to obtain inbound links to your site in a short space of time and best of all, the method is Google approved!

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