Custom 404 Errors: Keeping Lost Visitors at Your Site


We've all seen them; you click on a link and instead of the page you're expecting you see:

The page cannot be found

The page you are looking for might have been removed,
had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

And then you're asked to try different options, like double-checking your spelling, hitting the back button, or shutting off the computer and getting a life.

Although some Type-A's may continue to search for the missing page, most people will give up, cursing the site and looking for a competitor.

How does this happen?

In geek-speak this is called a 404 error. It occurs when you request a page from a Web server by clicking on a link or typing a URL into the address bar, but there's no file at that address. To let you know this the server displays a generic 404 or “page not found” error, devoid of any links or helpful information.

404 errors are a fact of life; sites evolve, pages are reorganized, and links from other sites contain typos.

What can be done?

The fix is simple; most hosting companies allow you to upload a “custom” 404 error page, something to replace the generic error. This custom page can look like the rest of your site, include links to the most popular pages, and include a site map or search to help visitors locate moved pages.

You can also customize the tone of your message along with the look of the page to better fit with your site. Rather than a buttoned-down “Page Not Found” message, maybe “Can we help you find something?“, “Have you lost your way?“, or “You can't get theah from heah,” might be more appropriate.

Don't let lost visitors turn into lost opportunities; make sure you can help them find their way back.

If you'd like to add a custom 404 page, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media