Custom 404 Error Page _
How to know when a link is broken
Broken links on a webpage will present the user with a code 404 error page, preventing them from being able to access the subsequent page. The 404 error ‘page not found’ is usually explained by the URL for the link being incorrect, or having been removed from public view.
‘Link Juice’ is known as the currency of Google and is used in search engine algorithms to determine the rankings of a website or webpage. Pages are connected by links and the juice flows from one to another. If there is a broken link then the fluidity of the link juice stops and link juice is lost. This can greatly affect your website's rankings and devalue the user experience of the website, reducing future website traffic.
In creating a custom 404 error page you are able to redirect the user back to either the homepage or the previous page to get them back on track. Although the user is presented with a problem, they are easily able to navigate back into the website without having to start the process all over again. In redirecting your visitors back to other web pages the website is able to retain a level of link juice that would have been otherwise lost. The more inbound links that are associated with a web page helps to increase its rankings, so removing or changing page filenames has to be carefully thought out.
By searching for sites that link together, Google is able to distribute link juice. If links to your website from external sources contain an even slightly inaccurate URL, or you have removed that page, then valuable external link juice is being lost. If you are technical enough then you can redirect external backlinks to a more appropriate web page.
Benefits of a custom 404
- Better user experience than a standard 404 error
- Retain a percentage of valuable link juice that would have been lost
- You can check Google analytics to see if a 404 custom page has visits, which could indicate broken links internally and externally.
How can I easily make daily checks for broken links without verifying every link?
Broken Link Software will probably be supplied by most SEO companies, and will include some sort of broken link checker that keeps regular check-ups on your links and notify you if there are any problems. In some cases, such as Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla, there may be an inbuilt extension that you can use to automatically check for you.
Explicitly for PCs, Xenu is an available free download that can be installed to also provide checks. However, this has not been expanded to Macs as of yet.
We also recommend Google Webmaster Tools to be uploaded onto your website. Webmaster Tools can offer you extremely useful information about many factors, including broken links within your website and from external resources.
How to Create a Custom 404 Page
This can vary depending on the platform your website has been created in. I would ask your web developer first to set this up for you, but generally the .htaccess file is used.
Step 1. A 404 page does not exist, the error you receive is a basic standard error report that the server is set up to show So, the best thing to do is design and create your 404 page first. I would generally call this file 404.
Step 2. Use your website FTP credentials to log into your server and see if a .htaccess file exists in the root. There should already be one there; if not, create one. To create one, open notepad or a text editor and save the file as .htaccess
Step 3. Add the following to your .htaccess file:
ErrorDocument 404 http://www.your-domain.com/404.html
This tells the server that if a document is attempted to be accessed but does not exist, to redirect them to the custom 404 page you earlier created. Just remember to replace your-domain.com with your domain name.
Note: If you are not comfortable, or do not have the technical know-how, then contact your current web team.
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