Increase Your Traffic by Recovering Your Lost Visitors
If you spend any time surfing the Internet, you've probably encountered a few
error messages. Error messages have numerous causes, such as misspellings, outdated
links or internal server errors. When an error is encountered, your server will display
specific generic error pages according to the error. These error pages are not only dead
ends, but they are also very frustrating for your potential visitors.
When your visitors mistype your web address or click on an outdated link and
receive the dreaded error page, they'll most-likely click on their back button and never
return. However, you can recover a majority of your lost visitors simply by taking the
time to create some customized, user friendly error pages.
As servers run different types of software and do not function in the same manner,
there isn't a simple method for creating custom error pages that will work with every
system. However, if you have your own domain and your site is hosted on a Unix/Linux
server running Apache, this article will assist you in creating custom error pages.
Before we begin, keep in mind, editing your server files is serious business. Even
one small typographical error can wreak havoc -- make sure you make a backup copy
of any file you're planning to edit.
Guidelines for creating your error pages:
1. Create your error pages in standard HTML -- just as you would create any other web page for your site.
2. Don't alarm your visitors. Never include the word "ERROR" in large, bold text.
Your visitors may immediately become alarmed and think they've done something to
cause the error. Instead, be apologetic and encourage your visitors to click on the
navigational links to locate additional resources and information.
3. Your error pages should look just like the rest of your web pages. Each error
page should contain good navigational links, a search feature, and provide information in
regard to the specific error they received.
Once you've created an error page, save it as the error name. For example, if you're
creating a customized error page for a 400 Bad Request error, your page should be saved as 400.html.
Here are some of the more common errors:
400 Bad Request
401 Authorization Required
404 File Not Found
405 Method Not Allowed
500 Internal Server Error
501 Method Not Implemented
502 Bad Gateway
503 Service Temporarily Unavailable
Once you've created your pages, you'll need to access your server via FTP and
create a new folder called "errordocs" where you store your HTML files. Upload your
new error documents into your new folder.
Your next step will be to locate your .htaccess file and download it to your
computer. (If you use FrontPage to publish your web pages, you cannot customize the
.htaccess file, as FrontPage uses the .htaccess file. Editing the file may cause errors in
your configuration.) The .htaccess file should be located on your server where you
store your HTML files.
If the .htaccess file isn't visible, you can create one within a plain text editor.
However, you must first make sure your server isn't configured to hide the file. Your
FTP program should enable you to choose to display hidden files and folders on your server.
Once you've downloaded your .htaccess file, open it within a plain text editor, such
as Note Pad, and add the following lines below any other text that may be present:
ErrorDocument 400 /errordocs/400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /errordocs/401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errordocs/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /errordocs/404.html
ErrorDocument 405 /errordocs/405.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500.html
ErrorDocument 501 /errordocs/501.html
ErrorDocument 502 /errordocs/502.html
ErrorDocument 503 /errordocs/503.html