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Check out this guide for using your custom error pages to direct more relevant web site traffic to your less visited pages.

Use Custom Error Pages to Generate Website Traffic

Here’s a cool little web marketing trick that I wanted to share with you that you may not have considered. By doing this I increased viewer-ship of some of my less visited posts by promoting them on my error pages. Take a look into Google Analytics and see if you have a large number of error pages that are getting hit.

If this is the case you should first fix whatever that issue is, but also work on some error pages as you will no doubt in the future get more visitors that wind up here. Not only that, but you’ll get bots. Bots that will index links you give to them.

See where I’m going here? In this post, I will outline different ways to create redirects as well as a couple other tips you can use to create more relevant links and get traffic to pages that may have dropped off in popularity for whatever reason.

WordPress Plugins for Improved Traffic

Chief WiggumIn preparation for this marketing tactic I installed 2 WordPress plugins. 1 to handle my error pages and one to provide me top 10 blog posts updated on a daily basis.

The first plugin I installed was the Custom Error Pages plugin. This gives you access to 401 page and 403-page templates that look like the rest of your website. You’ll still have to handle your 404 error pages for content not available, but I’ll get into that below.

The other plugin I installed was the Top 10 plugin for WordPress. It’s a great customizable plugin that you can edit to react how you wish. I have mine set to pull data once a day and list my top 10 visited pages. This is great not only for your visitors, but you’ll get a better snapshot of what pages are performing throughout the day by the views tab that can be configured to show up where you wish or not. All data is also visible on your WP dashboard.

How to Redirect Pages in Cpanel

In Cpanel, you can redirect any page you want to by clicking on the “Redirects” button under “Domains”. From here you can assign all your error pages to as SHTML documents if you’re so inclined. I’ve gone this route before, but I wanted error pages that closely resembled the rest of my blog. Hence the use of the plugin.

redirect1_copy

The Cpanel option is a great way to cover your error handling pages in one fell swoop. Once in the redirects section you can cut and paste code into your as SHTML pages and you’re good to go.

What About htaccess 301 Redirects?

If you’re having some serious error issues you should definitely look into what is happening. Probably the best way to handle misdirected pages is by creating a 301 redirect in your .htaccess file.

Warning editing your .htaccess file is the quickest way to bring your entire website down if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Please visit my post on .htaccess commands with code samples.

What Should be on an Effective Error Page?

Seymour_SkinnerBefore you create an error page you should have a few things in place. If someone winds up on one of your error pages they were looking for something they found on a search engine. If they don’t see what they are looking for chances are they’ll bounce unless you give them a reason to stick around for. A few of those being:

  1. A search box. This is the first thing you should include. If your visitor doesn’t find what they are looking for give them the option to search.
  2. An explanation of why they wound up here. Your viewers were looking for something and are wondering what happened to your content that they found in the SERPs.
  3. Links to popular posts. This is why I installed the Top 10 plugin.
  4. A link home. If they can’t find anything they are looking for a link home will give them a baseline of where to find top posts.

How to Redirect your 404 Error Page

If you’re not experiencing extremely high web site traffic to your 404 page and you just want to create a custom 404 page it’s a fairly simple process. Once you’ve created your page following the above tips you need to tell your server how to handle the 404 errors. This is a fairly simple bit of code that simply guides specified errors where you want them to go.

To add this bit of code to direct error pages to your own custom error page all you have to do is replace “www.yoururl.com” with your actual url and the page you want them to see. The following strip of code needs to be added to your .htaccess file located in the root of your server.

ErrorDocument 404

Be careful with this last step as messing with your .htaccess file is the quickest way to screw your site up if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make a copy of your htaccess before you do anything. If you do screw up you’ll be glad you did.

Good luck and happy coding folks.

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