404 Error Pages
I have on several occasions reworked entire websites. For instance, I converted my first website into a blog and, as you may know, even if I had reloaded all the pages of the website, they would still have a different extension and would not have been found by the search engines.
For some reason, even though search engines crawl my websites regularly, they kept sending traffic to pages for a long time after I had already removed the pages. It has happened with blogs and with static sites.
If you have changed your website recently, all you have to do is check your cpanel statistics to see how many hits you have to your 404 error pages, that is to say, how many times the people that visit your website are sent to the page that tells them that what they were originally looking for was not found.
When Do You Get a 404 Error Page?
Error pages typically appear when someone tries to type-in a direct web address and makes a mistake entering the entire URL. That is probably the most common reason why people get a 404 error page.
Another reason, as I mentioned above, is when your pages no longer exist. You may have changed your website from a static site with HTML pages to a dynamic blog with PHP pages. If that is the case, all the pages, even though they may have the same name, they would have a different extension and would not be found.
You may also remove pages that you now consider obsolete. After all, the internet is changing so rapidly, that quite a few of the things that I learned when I first got started are no longer applicable.
Another time when a 404 error page will appear is when you have broken links on your site or on a referring site. That is to say, the links that people click to get to the page has a syntax error or is no longer valid. You would be surprised at what you can find out when you use software to crawl your own website to see if you have any broken links.
Reduce the Chance of Getting a 404 Error Page
Use link-checking software to crawl your website from time to time and correct any broken links that are found.
Check article directories that you may have used in the past to direct traffic to your site and make sure that the links on your old articles are still valid. If they are not, you can correct the articles.
Check any feeder sites, such as web 2.0 sites that you may be using to direct traffic to your main site and make sure the links are valid.
If you have a lot of pages that have changed, as in the case of turning an HTML site into a PHP site, you could create re-direct pages to send the traffic to the new pages or to alternate pages. Eventually, the search engines will discover your new pages and de-index your old pages.
Take Advantage of 404 Error Pages
It is impossible to keep people from getting error pages, particularly if they try to type the URLs directly, but you could even utilize their visit to an error page to offer a bonus as an apology or as a consolation prize.
Edit your 404 Error Page through your cpanel and add an offer, or a bonus, or a link, rather than just leaving your customer alone to figure what to do next.
Create a Custom 404 Error Page for Your Site
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