Custom 404 Error Page - Can We Help You Find Something On Our Site?

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The custom 404 error page is often overlooked when it comes to search engine optimization. Back in March 2007, Bruce Clay, Inc. wrote on their blog about the importance of custom 404 error pages and seo. Does it really help you if you get to the top of the search engines but your website isn't user-friendly? No conversions means no money means no future. What happens if Google caches a page and then you change the name of it? A user will click on the link and they're taken to a generic 404 error page.

Custom Error Page

Your custom error page should contain the following ingredients:
  • An apology for the error
  • A prominent search box
  • A link to your site map
  • A link to your home page
  • Links to the other main areas of your site

Custom 404 Page

Jeff Atwood points out something that I didn’t know:
  • He says to make sure your customized 404 page is larger than 512 bytes or
  • some browsers will assume it’s the standard Web server 404 message and
  • replace it with their own

SEO Custom 404 Error Page

Recommendations and instructions on using custom 404 error pages:
  • Upload the page to your server
  • To do this for a Microsoft IIS Server, open up your "Internet Service Manager" and click on the site you want to set the custom 404 error page for
  • From there, select "Properties", and then "Custom Errors" from the list of Radio tabs
  • Once selected, scroll down until you come to the file associated with your custom 404 error page
  • You can then edit this file or upload a new one for your server to display
  • For a Unix server, modify the .htaccess file to include the command(s):
    • ErrorDocument 404 /404.htm
  • Note that this will redirect all 404 errors (File not found) to your custom 404 error page
  • Save the modified .htaccess and you're done

404 Error Page

Google Webmaster Tools is now offering a great new service with a free custom 404 error page widget. It includes:
  • Automatically provides users with helpful suggestions
  • It adds a search box for your site with appropriate search suggestions
  • It tries to provide alternatives to incorrect URLs
It is powering the section at the top of this page that includes the search box.

Basically, the 404 page mantra is this:
  • Be polite
  • Be helpful
  • Then get out of the way

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