404 pages are important. One of the biggest mistakes that blogs and website owners make is disregarding that fact and ignoring the 404 pages, thereby maybe losing all 404 incoming visitors. And that’s a lot of visitors to lose.

If you’re using WordPress, then to get a sense of just how many visitors you’re losing, there’s a wonderful MUST plugin called "Redirection" that aims at redirecting broken links into actual links. That’s extremely useful, but for this post, this plugin also has an option for showing all the 404 visitors, where they came from, what page they were looking for. In some of the blogs I’ve suggested that this be installed, the 404 traffic was almost as high as the actual traffic. Even if you change nothing, things happen to a blogs – users post and send e-mails about your posts with broken links, search engines keep hitting the pages in which you’ve already changed the slug, stuff like that. Don’t you wish you can turn all that traffic into actual readers? then I suggest you take care of your 404 page.

There are endless posts all over the blogosphere about what the perfect 404 page should include. I suggest you head out later and read "Page not found again! 404 in depth" that has some good suggestions. What I strongly recommend is using the Related Entries plugin with the 404 related-pages extension :

This plugin will only work if you had/have a permalink schema with the post titles in it. For example, /archives/2006/01/02/post-title or similar. In that case the plugin will strip out everything but the post title and use it to find entries that may be related to what the user may be looking for.

Very useful.

If you’re wondering what my recommended 404 page is, then it goes something like this :

<h2>This is a 404 page.</h2>
<p>We’re sorry, but we can’t find the exact page you were looking for. This can happen for a number of reasons – a broken referral link, a page that doesn’t exist anymore, or maybe even a temporary technical glitch. Either way, we’d hate to see you leave so soon, so while you’re here, why not check out the following relevant posts: </p>
<p><?php related_posts_404(); ?></p>
<br />
<p>If not, you might want to go have a look at the <a href="<?php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>/">main blog page</a> and see if there might be something else that’s interesting…</p>
<p>Either way, thanks for stopping by.</p>

Simple, straightforward, informative and relevant. It just might turn your random traffic into devoted readers…

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31 Responses to WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers

  1. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  2. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  3. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  4. Simon says:

    That’s an excellent tip. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while. One thing you could do with it would be to redirect it to your search page, with the search criteria automatically filled. I was int he progress of writing a plugin to do this myself, but it looks like this one has it covered. Excellent!

  5. That plugin looks brilliant. Thanks for the link!

  6. […] has a great post about turning 404 not found readers into blog readers. This is a subject I was aware of, but hadn’t done anything about, but now I’ve read […]

  7. Chris Lodge says:

    Great post, I was aware of this potential problem, but not really what to do about it. Something else to keep me busy next week!

  8. Tammy Lenski says:

    Ooh, this is helpful. I have a fairly helpful 404 page but hadn’t thought to integrate a related posts plugin. I already use a related posts plugin elsewhere…now if I just knew enough php to know how to integrate it into my 404 file…can you or anyone direct me to a page that’ll instruct me how to do that? Thanks!

  9. fiLi says:

    Tammy – if you’ll look at the quoted block I provided you’ll see that it includes the PHP you need to add. You can just add this within your template 404 file.

    To all the others – thank you, I’m glad you found this helpful. Will be interested in hearing about conversion rate changes.

  10. Tammy Lenski says:

    Thanks, I’d seen that but I don’t use that plugin. I’d like to use the Related Posts plugin I already use and that’s why I’m hoping that someone might know a URL with some general instructions about calling a plugin in PHP.

  11. fiLi says:

    Tammy – it’s the same plugin from the same author with a simple tweak. Follow the Related Entries link on the post and you’ll see instructions for both.

  12. Craig Childs says:

    Thanks for the link to the plugin. It’s a fantastic idea, turning the error page on it’s head.

    You would be able to do this with a line of code in the htaccess file – but this is much easier!

    A similar idea for readers coming to your site through search engine results is this Landing Page plugin:

    http://theundersigned.net/2006/06/landing-sites-11/

    It will suggest other articles from your site related to the search query that got them there.

  13. Tammy Lenski says:

    That’s helpful to know, thanks! I’m a php newbie so I’m proceeding veerrrryyy cautiously. I’ll use my test blog so I don’t blow up the one I care about! 🙂

  14. Dave says:

    Cool idea, thanks!

  15. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  16. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  17. blogmunch says:

    That’s just what i need.
    Just shifted to a new domain and had quite a lot of dead links from previous blog,
    I will try the plugin and see if it works…Thanks

  18. […] WordPress 404 Page This is a cool post on how you can get wordpress to handle error page caused by mistyped URLs. […]

  19. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  20. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  21. AskApache says:

    Hey fiLi glad to see you liked my 404 plugin, I remember reading this article back in ’07, and got some good ideas from it!

  22. aviator says:

    Thx for the info, very effective!

  23. […] Tech / “WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers” / August 11th, […]

  24. […] making money online with missing pages – turning 404 page visitors into blog readers And this one I thought was pretty funny… – SEO Boost from 404 plugin? (see if you can spot […]

  25. […] WordPress : Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers by Fili […]

  26. Phoenix says:

    Hi, i’m already try using this plugin but i have difficulty on creating the index so i use ‘similar plugin’ from rob marsh. Can i use that for my 404 error page? How/what code i must insert on the 404.php? Thanks before:)..

  27. […] Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers […]

  28. Richard says:

    Great blog you got here…keep up the good work.

  29. Tnelson says:

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

  30. […] Presentation and Functionality from Perishable Press How To Customise Your 404 Page from Sitepoint Turning 404 not found random visitors to blog readers from Tech Snacks 404 Page Management Your Grandma Can Use 404s and WordPress Server Load from alexking.org The […]

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