A “404 error page”, often referred to as a “Page Not Found, page”, is what is seen when a visitor to your website reaches a page that no longer exists. If people land on your website using a broken link it’s essential you display the right information to avoid them leaving. 404 error pages are also seen by visitors that type in a URL to reach your website, but make a mistake when typing it in.
You can’t always rely on the standard error pages because they don’t always provide enough helpful information. The main benefit to a intelligent custom 404 error page is to increase usability and ensure enough relevant information is presented to prevent people from exiting your website. Another great feature of a custom 404 error page is that you can style & brand it to match the rest of your site making it more friendly and engaging for the user.
Google have recently released a widget for your custom 404 error page. This excellent tool provides related links in effort to try and find the page you were looking for. Also included is a Google search box that provides a focused site search within Google using your domain name.
A good way to find out if you have any 404 errors on your site is to set-up Google Webmaster Tools. Within this Google will index your site and report any crawl errors identifying which URL’s are affected. This is a good process to go through to find broken links or old pages that need permanent 301 redirects.
Here is a great example of a custom 404 error page which features the Google 404 widget: http://www.wisetiger.co.uk/about/
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