Why you need a custom error pageUncategorized
First, what is a 404 error page? Google provides a great definition:
A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted, or they’ve mistyped a URL)
Having a custom error page helps your visitors. Broken links or typos happen, so at the very least try to point them in the right direction. The apple.com error page is a great example.
What prompted me to write about this is that the Yahoo! Store platform presents a special case because the default behavior is to send visitors to the homepage, so it’s a “soft” 404 error page. It’s described here along with simple instructions on how to set up a custom 404 page.
We checked several hundred Yahoo! Stores and found that only a third of them are using custom error pages.
Here is why I think you should create a custom error page:
If a page is in fact no longer available it’s OK to let the visitor know that. Sending her to the homepage is not really what one would expect to happen.
As a site owner you don’t know that there is a broken link if you send visitors to the homepage. If you have a custom error page you can track it in web analytics. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it.
Redirecting to the homepage could be seen as duplicate content and decreases the efficiency of spiders crawling your site. Returning anything but a 404 response for a non-existent page also means that you won’t be able to use the Crawl Errors report in Google Webmaster Tools – hat tip to Dave Burke for these points.
I know that to-do lists are getting longer and longer, but this is one thing you should do. So head on over here.