404 Page Not Found Screenshot
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404 Page Not Found…But it’s there…I swear!

Sometimes WordPress may get jumbled up and start showing you 404 Page Not Found messages, even though the pages clearly exist. In some cases you may be able to access your home page, but nothing else. Clicking any menu item, post title or Read More link gives you a dreaded 404. This can be a frustrating experience, but thankfully, I’ve got a troubleshooting process that has worked for me 100% of the time, which I’ll gladly share with you today!

Troubleshooting 404 Page Not Found Errors in WordPress

The first step to troubleshooting this is to look at your page or post permalink.

  • Go into your post or page edit view and then have a look at the permalink, which is just below the title. Click on the ‘Edit’ button and review the permalink title – making sure it’s accurate and that there are no unnecessary characters in there, e.g., once in awhile you may have a permalink that matches a tag or category title, in which case WordPress would append a number the end of the permalink. If this happens, then it’s best to edit the permalink to be unique, and then strip out the number.

WordPress Permalink Edit
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  • Next, go back to your site’s home page and hover over the link that’s resulting in a 404 error, then look down at the lower-left corner of your browser to see what that link looks like. If the link is different than your permalink, then there’s your issue. You’ll need to remove the broken category or page link from your navigation, then re-add it in Appearance > Menus.
Permalink view in browser window
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Check that permalink name

If your permalinks match but you’re still seeing 404 errors, then try this:

  • Go to: Settings > Permalinks and change your Permalinks to ‘Default’. Click ‘Save Changes’
  • Now change your Permalinks setting back to your original configuration, which was likely either: /%postname%/ or /%category%/%postname%/
  • View your home page again and see if the Permalinks reset got you straightened out.

If you reset your Permalinks structure and you’re still seeing 404 errors, then the next step I would take is a database optimization. That may sound like a scary option to some of you, but WordPress makes this pretty easy with a handy little plugin I like to use called WP-Optimize.

If you’d prefer not to use a plugin for this step you can log into your control panel and optimize the database tables through PHPMyAdmin. Most folks, however, will likely prefer the WP-Optimize method…

  • Go to: Plugins > Add New and search for ‘wp-optimize’
  • Install and activate it
  • Click the ‘Optimizer’ option in the plugins view

Wp-Optimize Optimizer Link
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  • Check the following settings and click ‘Process’
Wp-Optimize Optimizer Options
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Time to clean up yo’ database!

OK, now go back to your hame page and see if your permalinks are behaving. Chances are, they will be if you’ve followed all of these steps.

If you’ve gone through all of these steps and you’re site is still throwing 404 errors at you, then I would suggest:

  • Switching to the WordPress default 2014 theme, then deactivating all plugins.
  • Re-activate your them and plugins one by one, but test your links after each time so that you can try to isolate the problem and tie it to a plugin or theme.
  • If doing this allows you to connect the issue to a particular plugin or theme, then determine if you can get away with dropping it or using an alternative.

I hope this post was helpful to some of you! 🙂

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