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Create Custom Error Pages To Avoid "Lost" Traffic

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Avoid "Lost" Traffic By Creating Customized Error Pages

I'm amazed at the number of web sites that don't have a customized 404 error page. I believe you've also been to pages that does not exist somehow. The ugly default IE error page comes up saying something like "Can not find this page on this server. Please contact administrator, blah, blah..."

Nobody is going to contact the administrator or Webmaster and tell them "hey, you've got a non-existing page there..." Be honest, will you do that?

What we'll do is, click the BACK button and go to another web site. They would have just lost another potential customer. What a waste!

There could be a few reasons for a 404 error message showing up, dropped page, site down, visitor keyed in wrong URL, site redesign... You see, one thing that's certain on the Web is, nothing stays the same for very long. This is especially true when it comes to pages of your web site. When you first create your site you may think you'll never need to alter the structure. But as your site grows, chances are there will come a day when you need to move, delete or change the names of existing pages.

When you are busy promoting your web site (and you should be), those non-existing pages are still there in cyberspace listed in search engines, on other web sites in the form of links exchange, in directories, articles, etc. It would be impossible to contact all of these people and give them the new URL.

When a surfer clicks on that link, the ugly default error page comes up and you lose a visitor.

So what should you do to avoid the "lost" traffic?

Create a customized 404 error page.

By providing a custom 404 error page, you increase the chances of the surfer giving your site another chance.

Check out what happens if you try to visit a non-existing page in this site.

A custom 404 error page is a special HTML page that you create that automatically comes up if someone tries to visit a page from your server that does not exist. There are some important ingredients you want to include in the page:

  • Brief Explanation: Tell them that they have reached a page that no longer exists or has been moved - in plain English, don't just say "404 Error".
  • Include a menu, site map or search function as options.
  • Provide a link to the most important page in your site where you want visitors to go most.
  • The same look and feel as other normal pages in your site.

Now go to your web site control panel, look for "Custom Error Pages" option and activate it. You will also get instruction on what name you should give to the error page. Most likely "404.html".

FTP this error page up to your server and you're done. Test it by typing an incorrect URL into your browser and make sure your new error page is working correctly.

Notice that there are a number of other error pages that you can customize in the same way, such as:

  • 400 Error - Bad Request
  • 401 Error - Authorization Required
  • 403 Error - Forbidden
  • 500 Error - Internal Server Error

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