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New crime fiction series.
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I was curious about my 404 Error Page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_404). I read that it's a web page that should not be left in its default mode since for one reason or another, some of your website visitors will see it. So I checked my website stats and sure enough it had over 1,000 hits to that page so far in February. I don't know how many of those were unique visitors, but it's safe to say that visitors are reaching my website via a bad page (a deleted post or web page for example) and they saw my default 404 Error Page instead.

Here was the default 404 page for my website:



At least the WordPress theme I use didn't just have a "nothing to see here" type message and nothing else, they at least provided "useful links" to my site. But I still decided to make a small tweak... I added a mailing list sign up form to it.

It took me less than ten minutes and the only technical skill you really need is to know how to copy and paste.

Here is my new 404 page:



As I mentioned above, if you're using WordPress perhaps your 404 page won't be as terrible as the typical 404 page from most sites (which is just a white page with an error message):



I hemmed and hawed between listing my book covers linked page to my Amazon sales page or trying to build my mailing list on it. I decided to go the mailing list route.

I created a new 404 Web Form with my email marketing software and I copied the HTML code they generated (I use Aweber but you can easily do this with Mailchimp).

I then went to my WordPress dashboard and in the editor I clicked on the 404.php file (I believe all themes have a 404 template page since it's standard).

Then I just pasted the Aweber code into it and that was it. Make sure you keep a backup copy of original 404.php file in case you mess up you can go back easily by copying the old code back in there. :D

If you don't use WordPress you can search "404 page" on YouTube you'll find several "how to make custom 404 page" video tutorials. Ditto for Wordpress, you'll find several videos on how to do that on YouTube.

I just customized my 404 a few days ago, so I'l keep you posted if it leads to new subscribers to my mailing list. But even if you don't use it for your mailing list, you can put anything on there that promotes your books or your brand versus just a generic "nothing here" default page.

To see your 404 page just type your website URL with a forward slash and just randomngly hit a few keys like: http://alanpetersen.com/djdjd
 

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I'm on Smart Host (unlimited space for £3 per month) and they use cPanel administration software has an app to customise error pages. Once I get further in having my sites set up I'll take up your idea.
 

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This is excellent advice everyone needs to take seriously.

Optimizing 404 pages is extremely important, but often forgotten. Who likes to thinks about a page you hope no one sees? Even if you think you'll ensure no broken links within your site, and from your own marketing, other people who link to you may have a typo. There are many reasons people may land on a 404. Even if you do everything you can, it still is out of your hands. It's better to keep a visitor on your page than to have them exit because the 404 page doesn't help them out.
 
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