Broken URLs & 404 Errors

April 29, 2008

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

404 Ahh, the dreaded 404 error. Nothing is more irritating for a shopper to click on a dead link or land on a out of stock product page. The buyer gets frustrated, and in addition to losing a potential sale, the brand gets hurt as well. You spent good money to bring the buyer to your site, just to lose them immediately by displaying a 404 or file not found error. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

So how to prevent this? For the paid searching marketer, it’s challenging to manage a large campaign of thousands or tens of thousands of product terms, and make sure all of the active keywords are for in stock products. I have clients for whom a hundred products may go in or out of stock every week. There are several things you can do to minimize the likelihood of clicks to dead product pages.

  1. Product Feed: I ask all my clients to send me a product feed on a regular basis. By comparing the old product feed with the new one, I can quickly identify the products that are no longer in stock, or new products. If the product feed is connected to your paid search campaigns, you can keep the two in sync. At ChannelAdvisor, we have a solution that allows us to automate pausing keywords that go to an Out of Stock page.
  2. Category Pages: When it’s appropriate, consider using a category page instead of a product page as your landing page. As long as there aren’t too many products displayed on the category page, conversion may actually be higher, even on searches for a very specific product. Buyers appreciate the additional choice of products, and should the original product go out of stock, at least there are other similar product available.
  3. Validate URLs Regularly: Check all URLs in the account and look for dead links or out of stock messages. We have scripts we use at ChannelAdvisor that can check large numbers of URLs easily and quickly.

written by Jason James — jason.james at