Search engine optimisation helps users to discover your website – but what kind of experience do your users have when things go wrong? If they see the dreaded “Page Not Found” message then it’s time to get yourself a Custom 404 message.

If your search engine optimisation means brand new users are discovering your site, then you need to make a great first impression. Even when those inevitable mistakes happen.

It’s easy to get a Custom Error 404 message. I’ve just implemented my own new custom 404 – please take a look. (I tell a small lie. Andy implemented it for me – thanks Andy.)

If somebody has taken the trouble to come to your site, then you should take the trouble to help them discover what they want when a page is missing.

A good Custom 404 page will:

  • say you are sorry
  • give the user the ability to search for what they want
  • give signposts to useful pages
  • give access to your site map
  • keep a good relationship with your user

Keep it brief, keep it simple, maybe make it funny.

I found this overview of Custom 404 very useful.

Geek Alert: I also had to fix the header codes to show that the new Custom 404 page wasn’t actually a real page that was found, returning Code 200. Read more here.

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