By Bruce Hearder
Every web surfer has encountered the dreaded 404 page not found error message.
The generic error page is horrible to look at and it does not encourage web visitors to explore more of your site.
Imagine being able to setup a custom error message page that looked good, told the visitor what had gone wrong and then suggested some alternative links to other locations on your site, such as the home page, sitemap or even a search page.
If the visitor wanted to, they could then visit other parts of your site.
It is very easy to setup a custom 404 error page (The 404 error is the error number returned when a page or directory is not found on your site).
The easiest way to redirect visitors that encounter a 404 is to either send them to your sites home page or to your sitemap page
We do this by placing a one line of code in your websites .htaccess file
ErrorDocument 404 /sitemap.html
This would redirect all 404 error messages to the sitemap page.
The path to the page you want to display, must already exist on your web server, otherwise the web server will tie itself up in a never ending loop.
The full path to the error page must be specified and it must be relative to the root path of that account (remember, placing a / at the front of a file name or directory specifies that it’s relative to the root directory).
To make a custom error page, simply create a page using your favorite webpage editor such as MS FrontPage or DreamWeaver. The page can contain anything you wish, such as images, links etc. Save the file as something easy to remember (such as 404errors.html)
I would then suggest you make a directory directly off your /public_html/ folder and call it “error” and place your error files in here.
This would now mean that your .htaccess command line would now look like:
ErrorDocument 404 /error/404errors.html
Now whenever a 404 error was generated on your site, your custom error page will be displayed, and keep your web visitors happy.
In the upcoming article, I will expand on this idea, and show you how to you can receive an email notification that a 404 error has occurred on your site. It will tell you what caused the error, and the offending page. Allowing you to try and fix all broken links leading to your site.