A 404 error is one that you have to dread. 404s happen when the web page is no longer available. You may not know about it, but it happens every time you delete a page, a blog post, or if you unpublish a page.
You cannot make a 404 error disappear. You either have to redirect the broken link to a new page or redirect all your broken pages or links to a single page, which is called Custom 404 Error Page.
Today, you will learn about how a custom error 404 page can benefit your website. Apart from that, I will also show you how to create a redirect. By the end of this tutorial, you should be able to work on your website’s error 404.
What is a custom error 404 page?
A custom error 404 page is a single page where all broken links go. It is like a standard “lobby” where you take site visitors if the page they are visiting is already deleted or unpublished.
Let us say that one of your URLs, https://myblog.com/how-to-do-things is no longer active, you will redirect visitors of that page to another page, which is the custom 404 error page.
On the custom error 404 page, you have a message that says “This page you are trying to access is no available” or something like that.
It is not important that you craft this message this way. You can be as creative as much as you want to. You can also add images if you want. What matters is that it is clear that the page the user is trying to access is no longer available.
In your custom 404 page, you can also add hyperlinks to blog posts that you want to recommend, or maybe content that you want people to download. It is completely up to you how you want to design your custom 404 error page.
So, how do you build a custom 404 error page?
You can build a custom 404 error page in the same way that you build any other page. Whether your website is built on WordPress or another site, just create a new page and then design it.
How does a custom error 404 page benefit your website?
It is rare for bloggers to build one, especially those who are new to the industry. This is because they do not realize that a deleted page is damaging their site.
Even if you have not deleted any of your pages, it makes perfect sense to build a 404 error page because of the benefits it brings, especially if you have discovered that one of your pages is not working, or if you decided to unpublish one page.
Here are the benefits of a custom 404 page:
- Better branding – with a custom page, you can design it to show your logo and strengthen your brand. If your user gets to this page, he knows that he is still on your website.
- Better user experience – with a custom page, you do not leave a user confused as to what is happening. You are essentially acknowledging that the page is gone. And if you do this, then a user will know that you are aware of the problems with your site. He will also know that the page he is looking for is permanently deleted and that you know about it.
- Better for SEO – search engines hate a 404 error. It does not offer a good user experience. If your site has an error like this, Google and other search engines may remove your URL from its rank.
- Better lead generation – you can use the custom 404 error page to make offers. You can add your email subscription form on the page, and then the user to sign-up for this subscription to get your lead magnet.
As you can see, a custom 404 page can be designed in so many ways. It is really up to you how you want to make the best out of it. At the very least, a custom 404 error page does not show your user a broken page.
And if there is no broken page, it pretty much tells the user that you care and that you have taken the time to understand what he needs.
How do you detect a custom 404 error on your site?
There are three main methods to find error 404 on your site. The first method is manual. In this method, you have to open all your web pages one by one. If they did not return an error 404, then there is no error of this sort.
The problem with this approach is that it is not reliable. If you already have hundreds of pages, you may not be able to open and check them all.
The second method is through Google Search Console. In your GSC, go to Coverage, and then you will see this chart:
If you see an error, click on that and then GSC will tell you if you have an error 404. The report from Google will also tell you the links to the URL that has the error.
The third method that I recommend is through the use of a plug-in. If you are using Shopify or WordPress to build your website, you can install plug-ins that will show you an error 404.
A good example of a plugin that I recommend is RankMath. With this plug-in, you can immediately detect error 404 pages from your website.
These plug-ins are free, and I can say that most SEO plug-ins like Yoast and SEMrush have the same error 404 detection systems. Once you have identified the errors, the next thing to do is to redirect them to your custom error 404 page.
How do you redirect a custom 404 error?
You can redirect error 404 from you web host service provider if you know how to access the code of your site. However, this is tedious at best, and you need special skills to get it done.
What I recommend is that you install a plug-in called RankMath. Once you have that, all you have to do is to go to your Error 404 monitor as shown below.
Once you click on the Settings of the Error 404 Monitor, you will see this:
From here, you can select if you want to redirect your error 404 pages to your home page, the default 404 page, which you do not like to use, or to a custom 404 page that you made.
Summary: How a Custom 404 Error Page Can Benefit Your Website
Error 404 leaves a user thinking that your website is not taken care of. The user, who is looking for information, is not going to be happy to see an error on his browser.
However, if you have a custom 404 error page, the user will understand that you are aware of the problem and that you have an alternative.
The error 404 page does not necessarily mean that you fixed the problem. After all, if you already deleted the page and you have no plans to replace it, then a user cannot do anything about it. But at the very least, you offered other options to the user.
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