Welcome to 404 Error Pages .com
The Error 404 "Page not found" is the error page displayed whenever someone asks for a page that’s simply not available on your site. The reason for this is that there may be a link on your site that was wrong or the page might have been recently removed from the site. As there is no web page to display, the web server sends a page that simply says "404 Page not found".
The 404 error message is an HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) standard status code. This "Not Found" response code indicates that although the client could communicate to the server, the server could not find what was requested or it was configured not to fulfill the request.
The 404 "Not Found" error is not the same as the "Server Not Found" error which you see whenever a connection to the destination server could not be established at all.
The default 404 error page as shown on Internet Explorer is given below.
HTTP Status Code
Whenever you visit a web page, your computer will request data from a server through HTTP. Even before the requested page is displayed in your browser, the web server will send the HTTP header that has the status code. The status code provides information about the status of the request. A normal web page gets the status code as 200. But we do not see this as the server proceeds to send the contents of the page. It’s only when there is an error, we see the status code 404 Not Found.
Origin of Status Codes
As a part of the HTTP 0.9 specifications, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) established HTTP status codes in 1992. Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the web and the first web browser in 1990, defined the status codes.
List of Status Codes
A brief overview of HTTP status codes is given below.
Meaning of 404
When we expand the code 404, the first digit “4” represents a client error. The server indicates that you did a mistake like misspelling the URL or requesting for a page that is no longer available.
The middle digit, 0 represents a general syntax error and could indicate a spelling mistake.
The last digit, 4 refers to a specific error in the group of 40x.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) states that 404 Not Found should be used in cases where the server fails to find the requested location and is unsure of its status. Whenever a page has been permanently removed, the status code used must be 410. But hardly have we seen a 410 page. Instead, 404 Not Found page has become popular and the most commonly used error page.
Content of a 404 Error Page
A 404 response code is always followed by a human readable reason phrase as per the HTTP specification. Generally, a web server issues an HTML page that has the 404 code and the “Not Found” phrase by default. You can configure a web server to display a branded page with a better description and a search form. But the protocol level phrase requires no customization as it is hidden from the user.
Soft 404 errors are actually “Not Found” errors returned by a web server as a standard web page with a 200 Ok response code. In an automated process of discovering a broken link, the soft 404 errors are problematic.
The BT Group of UK has a clean feed content blocking system that returns a 404 error to the requests for content identified as illegal by the Internet Watch Foundation. Even when the user tries to access the Government censored websites, a fake 404 error will be returned.
404 Error Percentages
A sample web trends’ summary report by ARCHIVI shows the client error details for 404 Page.
Although the web statistics generally vary from month to month, based on the strategy used to eliminate 404 errors, and how active the website is, the percentage of 404 errors varies. Most active websites that have frequently changed or added content generally experience a higher number of Page Not Found errors. But there are many large and busy sites that achieve zero percent 404 errors over a period. On an average, around 7% of visits to any given web site will result in a 404 error page.
Tracking and Preventing 404 Errors
Using Log Files
A sample line from a common transfer log file is given below.
Redirects are very useful when used in conjunction with a 404 error page. To redirect a page, simply follow the steps given below.
1. Create a file "notfound404.htm" with a message such as:
2. Allow 5 seconds for reading the message and then redirect.
3. A sample redirect code is:
Note: The value for CONTENT specifies the number of seconds you allow the user to read the message before redirecting.
Using robots.txt File
Robots.txt file is useful when there are frequently changing sections on your webpage. To use a robots.txt file, simply follow the steps given below.
1. Create a file “robots.txt” in the root directory.
2. A sample robots.txt code is:
Note: User-agent: * will apply to all search engines. Disallow command helps you to block complete directories or only the individual files that change.
Customization of 404 Error Pages
According to a recent poll conducted by the web masters, only 23% of visitors that encounter a 404 page make a second attempt to find the missing page. The rest 77% of visitors will not make any effort to find a missing page whenever they encounter a 404 error. So, customizing such an error page on your site will increase your chances of keeping those visitors on your site. A custom error page will be an added feature and advantage to your website. It shows that you care for your visitors and made an attempt to catch them.
Besides, there are many problems with the standard error page. They are:
To avoid these problems and provide your visitor with a better user experience, it is always ideal to customize a 404 error page.
Qualities of a Good 404 Error Page
A good 404 error page conveys a right message and leads the visitor to where he intends to go.
Note: There is no need for you to do all of these things on a single error page. But following these simple tactics will help your visitor to stay on your site.
Forcing Internet Explorer to Display Your Custom 404
Internet Explorer versions 5 and below do not support your customized error page if its size is less than 512 bytes. Make sure you create customized error page that has the size greater than 512 bytes. Note that this doesn’t include graphics. The best way is to add some filler text in comment lines in the source code of your file.
The versions 5 and above have friendly built in error page. But this is no replacement to a customized error page. You can even change the default behavior of the Internet Explorer.
1. Go to Tools Menu in the Internet Explorer and click the Internet Options.
2. You will be displayed with the Internet Options dialog box. Click the Advanced tab.
3. Uncheck the "Show friendly HTTP error messages" check box and then click the OK button at the end.
The Hypertext access (.htaccess) file is the Apache's directory-level configuration file that allows you to manipulate the behavior of the server. Often, the .htaaccess file is accompanied by an .hpasswd file for storing valid usernames and respective passwords.
The .htaccess file is used to specify the security restrictions of a particular directory. It helps the server to rewrite URLs and control user agent caching so that bandwidth usage, server load and perceived lag are reduced to a great extent. More commonly, it is used for customizing error messages for server errors.
Using .htaccess File
Before we use any .htaccess file, we need to know that it’s the filename in full and not any extension. For example, we cannot create a file called "error.htaccess" and the file is just called ".htaccess".
When you place a ".htaccess" file in any directory, it will be loaded via the Apache Web Server software. The file will have effect over the other files in the entire directory it is placed in, including the subdirectories. You can use text editors like TextPad, UltraEdit or MS Wordpad to create a .htaccess file.
After you create .htaccess file, you must upload it using a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. It is also important to note that while you upload the file, you need to upload it in "ASCII" mode.
Customizing 404 Error Page Using the .htaccess File on Apache Based Servers
It is not possible to customize your 404 error page if your web host has not enabled this facility for your website.
If your web host has this facility, you will usually find mentioning of this information somewhere in their documentation. In fact, if they mention somewhere that you can customize a file named ".htaccess", it probably means that you can also customize your 404 File Not Found error page.
The steps in customizing a 404 error page are given below.
Step 1: Create a Customized 404 File Not Found Error Page
We’ll create a custom 404 error page based on a html/php script. This code will send an email notice whenever the error page loads. The notice has the information such as the Date and Time of the visit, the IP address of the visitor, the attempted URL, the visitor’s browser information, and the bad link that led to the error page.
Here’s the sample code:
1. Copy this code and paste it in notepad as shown below.
2. Replace "yourdomain.com" with the URL of your website.
3. Save the file as 404NotFound.php.
Step 2: Create a .htaccess file
1. Open a new file in NotePad.
2. Add the following line to the file:
3. Save the file as .htaccess. The name must be all lowercase i.e. .htaccess
Note: When you create a new .htaccess file, the resulting file may be named as - htaccess.txt If that is the case, remove the extension and rename the file to .htaccess.
Step 3: Upload Both Files
1. Open the FTP tool through which you upload your website files.
2. Upload the 404NotFound.php file to the folder you wish to upload.
3. Upload the .htaccess file to the top directory.
Step 4: Test the page.
1. Now test your error page by typing a URL that you know does not exist. Your error page should load up like the one shown below.
Common Errors with a 404 Custom Error Page
The most common error you will find is related to the URL. If you mention the URL incorrectly in the .htaccess file, it leads the web server into a loop when a visitor tries to access the missing file.
Another common error is related to the insertion of invalid hyperlinks on 404 Not Found page. So, When you provide the hyperlinks of other pages on the 404 Not Found page, make sure that they work and are not relative links. For Instance,