Increase Your Traffic by Recovering Your Lost Visitors
By Shelley Lowery
If you spend any time surfing the Internet, you've probably encountered
a few error messages.
Error messages have numerous causes, such as misspellings, outdated
links or internal server errors. When an error is encountered, your
server will display specific generic error pages according to the
error. These error pages are not only dead ends, but they are also
very frustrating for your potential visitors.
When your visitors mistype your web address or click on an outdated
link and receive the dreaded error page, they'll most-likely click
on their back button and never return. However, you can recover
a majority of your lost visitors simply by taking the time to create
some customized, user friendly error pages.
As servers run different types of software and do not
function in the same manner, there isn't a simple method for creating
custom error pages that will work with every system. However, if
you have your own domain and your site is hosted on a Unix/Linux
server running Apache, this article will assist you in creating
custom error pages.
If you're not sure what type of server you're on, visit the following
web address to find out:
Before we begin, keep in mind, editing your server files is serious
business. Even one small typographical error can wreak havoc --
make sure you make a backup copy of any file you're planning to
Guidelines for creating your error pages:
1. Create your error pages in standard HTML -- just as you would
create any other web page for your site.
2. Don't alarm your visitors. Never include the word "ERROR"
in large, bold text. Your visitors may immediately become alarmed
and think they've done something to cause the error. Instead, be
apologetic and encourage your visitors to click on the navigational
links to locate additional resources and
3. Your error pages should look just like the rest of your web
pages. Each error page should contain good navigational links, a
search feature, and provide information in regard to the specific
error they received.
If you'd like to see an example error page, visit the
following web address:
Once you've created an error page, save it as the error
name. For example, if you're creating a customized error page for
a 400 Bad Request error, your page should be saved as 400.html.
Here are some of the more common errors:
400 Bad Request
401 Authorization Required
404 File Not Found
405 Method Not Allowed
500 Internal Server Error
501 Method Not Implemented
502 Bad Gateway
503 Service Temporarily Unavailable
Once you've created your pages, you'll need to access your server
via FTP and create a new folder called "errordocs" where
you store your HTML files. Upload your new error documents into
your new folder.
Your next step will be to locate your .htaccess file and download
it to your computer. (If you use FrontPage to publish your web pages,
you cannot customize the .htaccess file, as FrontPage uses the .htaccess
file. Editing the file may cause errors in your configuration.)
The .htaccess file should be located on your server where you store
If the .htaccess file isn't visible, you can create one
within a plain text editor. However, you must first make sure your
server isn't configured to hide the file. Your FTP program should
enable you to choose to display hidden files and folders on your
Once you've downloaded your .htaccess file, open it within a plain
text editor, such as Note Pad, and add the following lines below
any other text that may be present:
ErrorDocument 400 /errordocs/400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /errordocs/401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errordocs/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /errordocs/404.html
ErrorDocument 405 /errordocs/405.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500.html
ErrorDocument 501 /errordocs/501.html
ErrorDocument 502 /errordocs/502.html
ErrorDocument 503 /errordocs/503.html
If you're creating your own .htaccess file, open a plain
text editor and add the above lines.
When typing in the information, make certain you type it exactly
as it appears above. You can include the error documents of your
Once the file is complete, save it as .htaccess and upload it to
your server, via FTP in ASCII mode, where you store your HTML files.
For additional information on File Transfer Protocol (FTP) you
If you have a Windows operating system, you will be unable to save
the file as .htaccess. You'll need to save it as htaccess.txt. Once
you upload the file to your server, you can rename it to .htaccess.
That's all there is to it. When your visitors click on an
outdated link, your custom error page will now be displayed.
Creating your own custom error pages is well worth the time and
effort, as they will enable you to recover an unlimited number of
your visitors. If you follow this step by step guide, you can have
your pages up and running in no time.
Copyright © Shelley Lowery 2003.
About the Author:
Shelley Lowery is the author of Web Design Mastery - An in- depth
guide to professional web design. And, Ebook Starter - A complete
ebook design kit. Visit Web-Source.net to sign up for a free subscription
to Etips and receive a free copy of the highly acclaimed ebook,
"Killer Internet Marketing