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Successful Site Launch Tip: Avoid the 404 Hall of Shame

A client of ours is part of a Tech Stars group that gets regular mentoring advice from leaders in the tech industry. Updates to her site were meticulously planned, heavily tested, and absolutely ‘pixie-perfect’! One of her mentors said something to the effect of, “If you’re not embarrassed when you launch an update, then you’re not moving quick enough.”

Great advice! Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (or good enough)

That doesn’t mean we have license to be lazy. I’ve had my fair share of stinker launches. From the lame lipsum launch where dummy content loiters about like last year’s Easter egg; to the one-legged cat in a sandbox launch where you forget to put the payment gateway into LIVE mode.

These are not the types of embarrassments the mentor was speaking of — these are all easily avoidable with a few checklists at the ready. The 404 Hall of Shame launch is a bit more tricky, but another type of stinker launch that’s not worth the embarrassment. Below I’ve outlined 4 tips to keep your project out of The 404 Hall of Shame

4 Tips to Avoid the 404 Hall of Shame

Tip 1. Get the indexed URLs from Google’s SERP
The site is a bit old-school, but the bookmarklet and instructions are still solid: https://www.chrisains.com/seo-tools/extract-urls-from-web-serps/ < Do this! You won’t regret it.

Note: you may find some pages in the SERP you didn’t know were indexed or that even existed for that matter!

Tip 2. Run your dev urls through a quick status check
https://httpstatus.io/ this requires removing any .htaccess rules you’re using to hide/bury your dev site, but only needs to be lifted temporarily.

Using a bit of Google Sheets trickery, combined with the results from the SERP bookmarklet, I like to run all of the indexed URLs through the httpstatus site both before and after rewrite rules are in place to confirm the rewrites are working as expected.

Tip 3. Always check your work!
Even after the dev team has put all of those fancy 301s in place, it’s worth your time to run the urls through a tool like httpstatus.io and/or to manually check the links on dev. I’ve been bitten by the dreaded 500 server error too many redirects error. Pretty easy to fix so long as you identify it before launch day.

Tip 4. Analytics saves lives
Inevitably there will still be a few old bookmarks or hidden urls that were missed. Using Google Analytics you can easily set up a report to monitor 404 pages as well as trigger a daily or weekly email showing the list of errant pages.

Mac McCabe

Mac is the lead Project Manager for Montana Banana.

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