Are you ignoring the broken pieces of your blog? Are you ignoring your lost visitors? If you have not addressed your 404 page, then the answer to both of these questions is yes. The 404 page is something that most of us do not spend enough time thinking about. A while back I finally did. Now, I see my 404 page as a secret cave that only the a few will hopefully ever discover.
But my site is not broken, why do I need a 404 page?
Ok smarty pants, so you say that you have no broken links but what happens if someone types a link incorrectly? Have you ever considered that fact? The truth is, as blogs grow, blogs break. Things just get broken. I am completely confident that there are two things happening online while we sleep. The first thing is that spammers are creating weird and bizarre comments for reasons that I will never understand. The second thing is that there are link breaking WordPress trolls that randomly come alive at night. Broken link or not, you should put some time into your 404 page.
Create a unique 404 page
Often times a 404 page is generic like the image below or at best it provides you with a navbar and a search bar. The image below is from Drudge Report, one of my all time favorite blogs. If you notice their 404 is blank as blank can be. In the case of this blog, my recommendation would be that it redirects back to the main page.
Like I said earlier, I decided to create something special with my 404 page. Now, if someone lands on my 404 page, I hope that see it is a special treat. I created a special video, a custom survey and gave them directions to WordPress tutorials and other categories. Hopefully, they feel as though they got a treat instead of a feeling of abandonment.
Thesis Theme and 404 pages
One of the coolest features about the new Thesis Theme 2.x, is the ease of choosing your 404 page. If you are running Thesis Theme then just follow these steps as listed below.
A. Inside of your WordPress dashboard click on Thesis Home, on the left side. You may need to first click on Thesis to expand your options.
B. Click on site to open up the options.
C. Click on 404 Page.
D. Select the page that you would like your 404 to default to.
E. Click the save button. Your changes will not take effect, if you do not hit this button.
Custom WordPress 404 Page without Thesis Theme
You do not have to be running Thesis Theme to control your 404 redirects. There is an simple and easy to use WordPress Plugin called 404 to Start that you can install. The first thing that you will need to do is install the plugin on your WordPress blog.
A. Note that you will find this plugins settings page under the settings options panel. This is generally at the very bottom, left side of your WordPress dashboard.
B. Choose 301, which is the default option.
C. Put the url that you would like all 404’s to be redirected to.
D. Hit the save button.
Tips on better 404 pages and a bit of fun.
The folks at Creative Market put together a showcase of some of the best ever 404 page designs. You should stop by and check them out for inspiration. These great folks also created a list of tips for making wonderful 404 pages and I listed a few of them below, stop by their site for the full list.
*Clearly explain that they have reached this page in error due to a broken link, etc.
*Provide a contact form or email address for support if someone needs additional help.
*Embed a search box on your 404 page so users can find what they are searching for.
*Captivate Your Audience with an interesting image or video.