Q: What is a 404 error page?

This is the page that is shown to your website visitors when they try to view content that doesn't exist on your website. 404 is the error code returned by your web server when a page is not found. Hence the name 404 error page.

Now, why would anyone want to view something that doesn't exist on your website?

Nobody sets out deliberately to view something that doesn't exist. A 404 error can happen for various reason. For example:

  • You may have shared a link with your email subscribers in the past but now the content has been deleted.
  • You may have renamed the URL for a particular page/post and forgotten to amend links to that content.
  • An external website may have linked to one of your pages that no longer exists.
  • An external website may have misspelled the URL to your content.
  • Your visitor may have made a simple typing error when they type in a particular URL in the browser address bar.

Most likely, you would have come across a 404 error page yourself when you try to view non-existent content on someone else's website.

Q: How do I find out what my 404 page looks like?

How a 404 error page looks like depends on your WordPress theme. To see yours, just try and visit a page you know that doesn't exist on your site. For example:
http://www.yoursite.com/1234/ (Don't forget to replace yoursite.com with your own domain name.)

This is what my default one looks like:

Now, I think you'll agree that this doesn't look very appealing or helpful for the following reasons:

  • It looks boring.
  • It looks out of place instead of blended to look like part of my site.
  • It doesn't give the visitor any incentive to stay around.

Q: What can I do to improve my 404 error page?

When visitors follow a link to your content and then see an error page, it's a disappointing experience for them. Most will just leave your site and never to return again, unless you provide them with some incentive to stay and explore. There are various ways you can improve your 404 error page to not only make it more user-friendly, but use it to start conversations, build relationships and even grow your email list. For example:

  • Include a button to sign up for one of your free resources
  • Add a link to your home page
  • Add links to your most popular blog posts
  • Add links to your services
  • Ask visitors to connect with you on your social media platforms
  • Ask visitors to check out your Facebook group
  • Ask visitors to email you or fill in a contact form about the particular content they're trying to view. You can then send them links to content that may be helpful to them

My favourite is to ask visitors to sign up for one of my free resources because my #1 priority right now is to grow my email list. This is what my custom 404 page looks like now.

You can see I have given it a fun look to blend in with the rest of my site. And there's a clear call-to-action to direct visitors to check out my free resource library.

Q: How do I create a custom 404 error page?

There are various ways to do this. Luckily, there's a WordPress plugin that will help you show a custom 404 page without you having to do any coding. I've created a step-by-step tutorial to walk you through the process.

WordPress tutorial: How to use a custom 404 page to grow your email list.
WordPress tutorial: How to use a custom 404 page to grow your email list.
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