Custom 404 Error Page – Increasing Your Web Traffic

According to a poll on Plinko, only 23% of visitors that encounter a 404 page make a second attempt to find the missing page. That means 77% of visitors that encounter a 404, leave your website, (probably never to return again). By creating a custom 404 page, you can increase visitor retention and help them find what they couldn’t find the first time.

Why do you need a custom 404 page?

Simply put, to increase the number of visitors to your website. Everybody wants more people to visit their website. On average, 7% of visits to any given website result in a 404 “not found” error page, according to web trends of popular websites. If you can lure in most of the visitors that hit your 404 page, then you’re increasing your web traffic.

How do you make a custom 404 page?

For servers running Apache web server, all you need to do is add a line to your .htaccess file in the root of your website (or create the file if it doesn’t exist).

ErrorDocument 404 /custom404.html

In order to force older versions of Internet Explorer to use your 404 page, you need to ensure your .htaccess file refers to a page that is at least 512 bytes. If it is smaller than that you can always add comments to increase the file size.

What makes a helpful 404 page?

Just having a 404 error page is a great start. It shows you care about your visitors and that you have made an attempt to catch them. If you’re looking for ideas for your 404 page, try these:

Provide text links to the most important parts of your website including your home page. This will give visitors places to go and stay on your website.

Provide text links to new and recent content on your website. New and recent content is more likely to be of interest to your visitors than old content.

Include a link to email the webmaster or to submit a form with broken links. People are more likely to use a form then send an email. Having one of these two options will help you keep track on your 404 errors.

Include a search box to search the site. This will give users the best ability to find exactly what they are looking for on your website.

List links similar to what they’re looking for based on what they typed in. Although this is the most difficult thing to add to your 404 page, it gives you the chance of guessing what they were looking for and providing a link directly to that content.

What are common reasons for the 404 error?

Often times, 404 errors are a result of search engine robots seeking your robots.txt file or trying to verify pages listings on an external site. Other files commonly desired by robots are:

/favicon.ico – Windows Favorites Icon
/w3c/p3p.xml – P3P Privacy policy

These files are downloaded every visit by search engine robot data collectors. The only problem is that if they are not present, their requests will generate 404 errors. If you want to ignore these errors you can create a real or dummy file with the names above.

Another common reason for a 404 error is an old URL in a link. Did you rename a page or change its slug?

How do I find 404 page errors?

The most common way to find 404 page errors is to check your web server logs. The logfiles usually include the referring page (the place the user came from to get the 404 error page). If it’s on your website, correct the problem. If it’s on another website then email the webmaster of the site to get the link corrected.

Sample 404 error pages

We focus on beautiful web design that delivers results for your organization. Our specialty is creating customized WordPress websites.

About Us

Johnny Flash Productions

Johnny Flash Productions is a creative agency based outside of Washington D.C. that focuses on digital strategy, web design and development, graphic design and event production that helps businesses get better results from their marketing.