Error Pages – 404 Error Pages

The dreaded 404 page is something that almost everyone has encountered in their online journeys. The most common reasons for landing on a 404 page include:

  • a mis-typed URL
  • an out-of-date bookmark
  • a search engine link that is out-of-date
  • an internal broken link that the webmaster hasn’t noticed

Surveys suggest that approximately 40% of users who run into a 404 Page Not Found error will leave your site, never to return.

However, as a webmaster, these pages should be customized in order to help the user find their way back to your website. To create your own customized 404 page, keep the following guidelines in mind.

Provide an explanation of what went wrong. A nice way to apologize would be to offer them a free report. By using this technique, your visitors will not only be impressed by your creativity, but you can also collect their name and email adress at the same time.

Provide a link to the site map. By redirecting them to your sitemap, they should be able to quickly and easily find what they are looking for.

Provide a search box for users to target in on exactly what they originally came for.

Use minimal navigation. This is not the place to put your entire site navigation. You simply want to pull them back into your website so that you are not losing any of your potential customers.

Some helpful examples of 404 error pages can be found at:

http://www.lockergnome.com/404

http://www.fool.com/error

Here is a great article on what should be on your 404 Error page: http://www.plinko.net/404/howto.asp?article=2

About This Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews & SEO-News newsletters.

3 Comments

  1. First of all, I love your website; it is informative et easy to use.

    Secondly, how do I ensure that my custom 404.htm page displays when a user reaches a broken link or somesuch? I merely called it /404.htm…

    Reply
  2. Hi Damon,

    How to configure the 404 page on your server will depend on who you’re hosting with. Not every host enables the feature.

    For many website hosts, their control panel will have an option to enable a custom 404 error page and you will enter in the name of the page you created.

    On Unix type servers you can often do this in the .htaccess file with an entry like:

    ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html

    Your best bet is to check with your hosting company about enabling the 404 error page you already created.

    Reply
  3. in php i use a custom page handler that i configure in the httpd.conf file – i point all the errors at 1 page. and then have a script that logs these errors and then redirects the user to an index page of my choosing

    ErrorDocument 500 /missing.php?e=500
    ErrorDocument 404 /missing.php?e=404
    ErrorDocument 402 /missing.php?e=402

    just an idea

    Reply

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