Mason’s WordPress template will serve any arbitrary URL, even if such a page doesn’t exist on the website.
While the resulting page will present you with a “Page Not Found” message, and will return a 404 HTTP response code, the resulting page will appear to be at the URL you provided; it will not redirect (visibly) to a separate 404 page.
This can make it challenging to figure-out how to see 404 pages in Google Analytics. While all 404 results will show-up in the GA reports, they will show-up under the requested URL. It does not redirect to a standard 404 page. Therefore, it is not obvious how to aggregate all 404 results in the reports.
HTML Page Titles
On Mason’s WordPress (Kuma theme) websites, the HTML page titles (i.e. the actual page title tags in HTML that show-up in the browsers tab headings – not the page titles within the website content) are typically in the form of “[Page Title] | [Website Title] | George Mason University”.
For example, the masonanalytics.gmu.edu Google Analytics Users’ Group page’s HTML page title is “Google Analytics Users’ Group | Mason Digital Analytics | George Mason University”.
When you go to a page that doesn’t exist, the HTML page title ends up being “Page not found | Mason Digital Analytics | George Mason University”.
So, although all page URLs for 404 pages are potentially different, the HTML page titles are the same. We can leverage this to see all 404 pages in aggregate.
Example: 404 pages on the Mason Analytics Website
Account: Mason Office of Communication and Marketing 01
View: [PROD] Default 1.0 (2017-05-10)
Date Range: June 1, 2017 – June 27, 2017
Report: Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages
Primary Dimension: Change the primary dimension from “Page” to “Page Title”.
Filter: Use the advanced report filter option to implement the following filter: Include -> Page Title -> Exactly Matching -> “Page not found | Mason Digital Analytics | George Mason University”.
Note: if you use the the quick filter box, you will have to modify the search string, as GA automatically interprets entries in the quick filter box as regular expressions.
This will show you the total number of 404 pages that have been viewed.
Identifying Specific 404 Pages
Add ‘Page’ as a Secondary Dimension in order to see the specific pages resulting in 404 errors.
Identify Where 404 Traffic is Coming From
You can instead add the ‘Source/Medium’ field as a secondary dimension to see where traffic to the 404 pages is coming from. This allows you to see which sources are sending you traffic that result in 404 pages.