Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dealing With 404

For many web users, the most irritating instances are when you encounter a 404 error. This means that the page you are eagerly anticipating to read isn't there, and it will definitely ruin an otherwise good session. However, it is not only the end user who will find this one very annoying.

For webmasters, complaints of 404 error from users is definitely a headache. Not only does this mean that there is a major problem in your website's design, but it will likely draw irate customers and precious traffic away from your site. Thus, you need to deal with them the moment initial complaints of 404 errors comes in.

One of the first things that you can do to minimize 404 messages is to ensure that your site has a good link structure. Make sure that all your links do go somewhere. This means that you will have to check that each link you make actually work and you also need to fix broken links fast. The links themselves should also be intuitive and tell the user where they will exactly go. Also make sure that the links you use are apt for the search terms that your visitors will likely use.

However, while you can at least cut down 404 errors, you will not be able to completely omit them. In fact, 404's can come externally, as well as internally from your server. For example, an end user might have misspelled a single term in the link's URL to cause a 404 return (note that spelling errors . Also, link building mistakes can also produce such error. Changes that you periodically make to your site, such as deleting and changing files also contribute to this one.

Here, you need to make sure that the 404 error page will be more useful to viewer than annoying. Thus, instead of the usual page with only the “404: file not found” message displayed, you can customize error returns to display the reasons why that particular page was not located. You can also be more helpful by directing them to other pages. This can either be done manually by providing the link to go to, or by using an automatic redirect..

be sure to consider the landing page of your redirect here. Most of the time, you can simply lead them back to your home page. However, you can also send them to other pages. Here, you can actually turn the error page to your advantage, as you can then use it to redirect users to a page that you want to increase traffic to. Just make sure that the page you are leading them to is indeed relevant to the 404 message, else, they will likely get out and not proceed to the directed page.

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