Does your website have a 404 error page?
A custom 404 page takes your website to a more professional level.
What is a 404 page?
A 404 page shows up when something goes wrong on your website such as a broken link or an incorrectly typed URL. Google offers their own explanation at length here.
Why do you need a custom 404 page?
A custom 404 page, can make a problem with your website into a fabulous experience. It is an opportunity to keep your customer, client or fan from becoming frustrated and leave your website. A great 404 page can reinforce your identity as an artist, maker or brand. This presentation below by Renny Gleeson, "The Story of the Page Not Found" explains many of the issues.
Why did I create a 404 error page?
In an effort to improve my website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) I changed the URL for about 50 pages. Many more changes are in progress. Changing the URL to an SEO optimized format drastically increased the risk that I might make a mistake resulting in a broken link. Though I created redirects for every change (more information on this soon), even a mistyped URL mistake by a future customer can create a 404 error.
404 To Direct or Redirect?
That is a question.
Without knowing what I was doing, I created a 404 Redirect. In other words, my 404 Error page goes back to my HOME page. This is optional. My 404 Error page could just be a custom page which lets the viewer decide where to go. Think about either option for your own 404 page.
Future posts will offer examples of great 404 page ideas and cover the technical issues along with optimizing your website for SEO and greater visibility.