Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Getting Sales From An Error 404 Page - Pt II

404 Not Found - Part II

A custom 404 error page is the same as any other web page. It does not require special coding, ASP, PHP or Javascript. It's just an ordinary web page that displays the information you want to display.

What should be on your custom 404 error page?

+Tell people what happened and give some possible reasons why it happen -- and do so in plain English.

Tell them that the page they were trying to get to is not available. Apologize for the problem and give some possible reasons. It could be they typed in the wrong URL. Possibly there was a typo in the URL. Or maybe there is a broken link on the web site.

+ Give people some options for correcting the problem.

For example, ask them to check the URL they typed to be sure there are no typos. But, if they clicked on a link that brought them to this page, there's nothing they can do to correct the problem, so...

+ Provide options that help the visitor find what they were looking for.

Provide links to the most popular pages on your web site. Provide a search box for searching your web site. You can even tell visitors, on the 404 error page, what is on your web site. Be as helpful as you can in getting people to where they wanted to go.

+ Promote some of your best offers. After all, this page will have people reading it, so why not make effective use of the space?

Don't miss out on the opportunity to let visitors learn about new things. Are you having a special 10% off sale this month? Put an announcement on your 404 error page. Are you giving away a free white paper? Put an announcement on your 404 error page. People are going to be visiting this page, so make use of it to promote your business, product or service.

The final step is set up your site so your custom page displays instead of the default 404 error message. How this is accomplished varies depending on the operating system.

If your web site is hosted on a UNIX system, then you'll need to add a line to the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is a plain text file in the root folder. It provides instructions to the host system. In this case the instruction will tell the host what page to display when a 404 error is encountered. Use a text editor, such as Notepad, to open the .htaccess file and add the following line:

ErrorDocument 404 http://www.yoursite.com/404-error-page.html

Replace "yoursite.com" with the URL of your web site and "404-error-page.html" with the name of your custom 404 error page. Save the file and upload it to your server.

For web sites hosted on Windows Systems, the error page needs to be changed in IIS. This is something usually done by the system adminstrator.


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