Why do we Need a Custom 404 Error Page on the website
“404 Page Not Found” is one error that we all have encountered, to our disappointment, after clicking on a URL in big black bold letters on our screen? An error page is a definite off-putter and you are highly unlikely to click any other URL that points to the same site. To counter this, we advise sites to add a custom 404 error page on their site.
Why do I see a 404 Page Not Found error?
A 404 Page Not Found error is seen when a crawler tries to navigate to a page that no longer exists on your server. (Mind you, this has nothing to with the URL. You may have a page with the exact same URL, but on a duplicate hosting on another server, and still see a 404 error. That is because your domain name is pointed to a different name server and hosting. For more details on this, read this blog.) Many a times, 404 Page Not Found errors occur because the website owner might decide to un-publish some pages, but forgets to remove backlinks to those pages. Or they may be pages already indexed by search engines, but no longer available on the site.
Why do I need a custom 404 Error Page?
Imagine this: Your reader found a link to your site that promises to give him some information he is looking for, maybe via search or backlinks on other websites. He clicks on that, only to find the page no longer exists on the website. You could either let him leave your site or help him find the information he was looking for.
The best way to do the latter is give him a page that provides him useful links on your site where he could find relevant information. To do this, you create a custom 404 error page. This page can contain a relevant message, a list of your top viewed pages and a search box that allows the user to find more information (see sample Custom 404 Error page here). This way you do not lose those users who landed on your site by following an old link or by typing an incorrect URL.
“Not losing a user, did you say?”. Hell! Yes! And a user who lands and hangs around for sometime is a big SEO boost.
To learn How To Setup a Custom 404 Error Page on your site using the .htaccess file, go to this blog.