Custom 404 Error Message



404 Error


Custom 404 Error page

How to Create a Custom 404 Error Message
and Increase Your Web Site Traffic
by Herman Drost

Have you ever received the dreaded " 404 error page not
found " message when you surfed to a web site?
This is usually due to typing the wrong URL or clicking
on a page link that no longer exists. If you are the site
owner, you lose the visitor and a potential sale. Creating
a custom 404 error page on your site will prevent you
from losing visitors and increase your web site traffic.

Benefits of creating custom 404 error messages

1. Stop link rot - as your site becomes larger, it's more
difficult to keep track of pages that once existed,
resulting in link rot.

2. Redirect old cached pages - old web pages are cached
by Google for a long period. If someone types in the URL
of your old web page they will get the dreaded 404 error.
A custom 404 error page redirects those visitors back to
your main site.

3. Capture mistyped urls - visitors often type the wrong
URL resulting in the " page not found " error message.

4. Increase traffic - instead of losing visitors that
receive page errors you keep them on your site resulting
in a small increase in web site traffic.

How to create a custom 404 error page


1. Create a new web page and name it error404.html (or
whatever you like).

2. Include these points on the error404 page:

a) clear message that they have arrived at the wrong address.

b) navigation bar or site map so visitors can quickly find
their way to around your site (if you have a large site you
may want to include a search engine).

c) contact information, so visitors can inform you of a
broken link or ask you a question directly.

d) a link that points back to the main page of your site.
You want to make it as effortless as possible for them
to find your site.

3. Create a .htaccess file - this is a hidden file that is
placed in the root directory. This is what directs users to
the custom error page, when they type in a wrong URL or
click on a broken link. This file affects the directory and
all sub-directories in which it is placed. Since you want
it to affect your whole site, place it in the root directory.

To create a .htaccess file, open notepad and add this line
to it:

ErrorDocument 404

If you already have a .htaccess file in your root directory,
then don’t create a new one. Just add the above
line to it. Make sure it is all typed on one line, the E
and D letters are capitalized, and there is a space before
and after the 404.

The URL can be absolute:
( ErrorDocument 404 )

or relative
( ErrorDocument 404 /error404.htm )

4. Save the file as “htaccess.txt” and change the name
remotely after you FTP it. (i.e.change the name of the file to
.htaccess when it has been up uploaded to the server).

5. Upload the htaccess.txt file and the error404.htm page
to your root directory (same location as your index.html
page) using your FTP software. Upload in ASCII mode (not
binary) or it won’t work.

6. Change the name of your htaccess.txt file to .htaccess

7. Test the custom error404.htm page by mistyping the URL
of your web site. Check the URLs on the error404 page.

Tip: Create a custom error404.htm page for every web site
you have, so you will stop losing precious visitors and
increase your traffic and sales.
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Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of Affordable Web Site Design and Web Hosting
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