How to Create a Custom 404 Page in WordPress (Step-by-Step Guide)

by Montel Anthony
Published: Updated:

A 404 page (also referred to as an error page or page not found page) is the web page displayed when someone attempts to reach an URL that doesn’t exist on your website due to broken links, mistyped URLs or deleted pages. Having a custom 404 page helps maintain positive user experience while engaging visitors even when errors arise on your site.

Custom 404 Pages in WordPress offer several advantages over generic ones:

  1. Consistency in branding: The custom page 404 lets you retain your website’s branding as well as visual elements, providing an unison experience for users.
  2. Engagement of users: Through providing informative hyperlinks, a search bar or stimulating material on the page that 404 appears on it can be a way to encourage visitors to continue exploring your website rather than going elsewhere.
  3. SEO advantages: An optimized customized 404 page will benefit search engines recognize that this page is in error which prevents the page from being found and negatively impacting your website’s SEO.

In this thorough guide, we’ll take you through steps needed for creating a custom page for 404 in WordPress, offer additional examples for ideas, and discuss excellent methods for optimizing your 404 pages for search engine optimization and user-friendly.

What is 404 Errors?

Before you begin creating your own 404-specific page it is important to know the causes of 404 errors as well as the way they affect your site. Most common reasons for 404 errors are:

  1. Broken hyperlinks: When an internal or external link is pointing to a unexistent web page.
  2. URLs that are mistyped: In the event that a user types incorrectly the URL correctly, it will result in an inexistent web page.
  3. Pages deleted: When a page disappears without a proper redirection to another page.

The impact of 404 errors is negative on the user experience as well as SEO.

  • Experience of the user: When you encounter a standard page with a 404 address can confuse and disorient users, leading to a greater bounce rate and less involvement.
  • SEO: Search engines might take a large number of errors 404 as an indication of poor maintenance on your website which could affect your website’s rank.

In by default WordPress shows a standard page 404 when the user is presented with a non-existent URL. The creation of a custom 404 page gives you the ability to manage the material as well as the design, which provides an easier experience for users.

Planning Your Custom 404 Page

Before creating your custom 404 page in WordPress, it’s essential to plan its content and design in detail. Think about:

  1. Establish Your Goals: Set clear and specific objectives for your 404 page, such as helping visitors locate content they were seeking on your site, inviting them to explore further, or prompting them to reach out for assistance from you directly.
  2. Inspiration: For ideas and motivation, check out creative 404 page examples on other websites to gain ideas and get some fresh inspiration. Some popular examples may include:
  3. Key elements: Include the following elements in your custom 404 page:
    • A clear and concise error message informing users that the page they’re looking for cannot be found
    • Navigation links to important pages on your site, such as the homepage, blog, or contact page
    • A search bar to help users find the content they were looking for
    • Engaging visuals or animations to add personality and maintain user interest
    • Consistent branding elements, such as your logo, color scheme, and typography, to ensure a seamless user experience

By carefully considering and planning the content and design for a customized 404 page, you’ll be able to produce one which more effectively meets the goals and brand of your website.

Creating a Custom 404 Page in WordPress

There are two methods available to WordPress users who need a custom 404 page, using either a template or plugin. Let’s examine both options together:

Method 1: Using a 404 Page Template

  1. Creating a new page template for your 404 page:
    • In your WordPress theme folder, create a new file named 404.php.
    • Open the file in a text editor and add the following code at the beginning:<?php /** * Template Name: 404 Page */ get_header(); ?>
  2. Designing your custom 404 page layout:
    • Use HTML and CSS to design the layout of your custom 404 page within the 404.php file.
    • Include the key elements you planned earlier, such as the error message, navigation links, search bar, and engaging visuals.
    • Ensure that the design is consistent with your website’s branding.
  3. Adding content and elements to your 404 page:
    • Use WordPress template tags and functions to dynamically generate content, such as the site title, logo, or recent posts.
    • For example, to display the site title, use <?php echo get_bloginfo('name'); ?>.
    • To include a search bar, use the following code:<form role="search" method="get" class="search-form" action="<?php echo esc_url( home_url( '/' ) ); ?>"> <input type="search" class="search-field" placeholder="<?php echo esc_attr_x( 'Search …', 'placeholder' ) ?>" value="<?php echo get_search_query() ?>" name="s" /> <button type="submit" class="search-submit"><?php echo esc_attr_x( 'Search', 'submit button' ) ?></button> </form>
  4. Setting up the 404 page template in WordPress:
    • In the WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Settings” > “Reading”.
    • Under “Error 404 Page”, select the page you created with the 404 template.
    • Save the changes.

Method 2: Using a Plugin

  1. Popular WordPress plugins for creating custom 404 pages:
    • 404page: Allows you to create custom 404 pages with widgets, images, and custom HTML.
    • Custom 404 Pro: Provides an easy-to-use interface for creating custom 404 pages without coding.
    • 404 Solution: Offers customizable templates and the ability to redirect 404 errors to specific pages.
  2. Installing and activating the plugin:
    • In the WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Plugins” > “Add New”.
    • Search for the desired plugin, such as “404page”.
    • Click “Install Now” and then “Activate” once the installation is complete.
  3. Configuring plugin settings and customizing your 404 page:
    • Each plugin has its own settings and customization options.
    • Follow the plugin’s documentation or the provided interface to create and customize your 404 page.
    • For example, with the 404page plugin, you can create a new 404 page, add widgets, images, and custom HTML, and select the newly created page as your custom 404 page in the plugin settings.

By using either a 404 page template or a plugin, you can easily create a custom 404 page in WordPress that aligns with your website’s branding and provides a better user experience.

Optimizing Your Custom 404 Page for SEO

To ensure that your custom 404 page is SEO-friendly, follow these best practices:

  1. Using relevant keywords in your 404 page content:
    • Include relevant keywords in your 404 page content, such as “page not found,” “error 404,” or variations of your website’s main keywords.
    • However, avoid keyword stuffing and ensure that the content reads naturally.
  2. Ensuring proper internal linking to reduce 404 errors:
    • Regularly check your website for broken internal links and update them to prevent 404 errors.
    • Use tools like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs to identify and fix broken links.
  3. Implementing 301 redirects for deleted or moved pages:
    • When you delete or move a page, create a 301 redirect to guide users and search engines to the new location.
    • Use plugins like Redirection or Safe Redirect Manager to manage redirects easily.
  4. Monitoring and fixing broken links regularly:
    • Set up a regular schedule to monitor and fix broken links on your website.
    • Use Google Search Console to identify 404 errors and resolve them promptly.

By optimizing a custom 404 page for SEO, you can minimize any negative repercussions from 404 errors on both search engine rankings and user experience.

Testing and Refining Your Custom 404 Page

After creating your custom 404 page, it’s essential to test and refine it to ensure optimal performance:

  1. Previewing your custom 404 page:
    • Navigate to a non-existent URL on your website to trigger the 404 page.
    • Check if the custom 404 page appears as intended, with all the designed elements and content.
  2. Testing different scenarios that trigger the 404 page:
    • Test various scenarios, such as mistyped URLs, broken links, and deleted pages, to ensure that the custom 404 page appears consistently.
    • Use tools like Google Tag Manager to track 404 error events and monitor their occurrence.
  3. Gathering user feedback and making necessary improvements:
    • Encourage users to provide feedback on your custom 404 page through surveys or feedback forms.
    • Analyze user behavior and feedback to identify areas for improvement, such as adding more helpful links or clarifying the error message.
  4. Monitoring 404 error occurrences using Google Search Console:
    • Regularly check the “Coverage” report in Google Search Console to identify 404 errors.
    • Resolve the identified 404 errors by fixing broken links, updating content, or implementing redirects.

By continuously testing and refining your custom 404 page, you can ensure that it effectively serves its purpose and provides a positive user experience.

Advanced Tips and Tricks

To take your custom 404 page to the next level, consider implementing these advanced tips and tricks:

  1. Integrating contact forms or live chat on your 404 page:
    • Include a contact form or live chat widget on your 404 page to provide immediate assistance to users who may have questions or need help finding specific content.
    • Use plugins like Contact Form 7 or Tidio Live Chat to easily integrate these features.
  2. Using humor or gamification to engage users:
    • Incorporate humorous elements, such as witty messages or quirky illustrations, to lighten the mood and engage users on your 404 page.
    • Consider adding simple games or interactive elements to entertain users and encourage them to spend more time on your site.
  3. Implementing multilingual 404 pages for international websites:
    • If your website serves a global audience, create multilingual 404 pages to cater to users from different language backgrounds.
    • Use plugins like WPML or Polylang to manage translations and serve the appropriate 404 page based on the user’s language preference.
  4. Leveraging analytics to track user behavior on your 404 page:
    • Use analytics tools like Google Analytics to track user behavior on your 404 page.
    • Monitor metrics such as bounce rate, time spent on the page, and click-through rates to gain insights into how users interact with your custom 404 page and identify areas for improvement.

By implementing these advanced tips and tricks, you can create a more engaging and user-friendly custom 404 page that leaves a lasting positive impression on your website’s visitors.

Conclusion

Creating a custom 404 page in WordPress is crucial for maintaining a positive user experience and minimizing the negative impact of 404 errors on your website’s SEO. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can easily create a custom 404 page that aligns with your website’s branding and provides helpful information to users who encounter a “page not found” error.

Remember to:

  • Plan your custom 404 page content and design based on your website’s goals and user needs
  • Choose between using a 404 page template or a plugin to create your custom 404 page
  • Optimize your custom 404 page for SEO by using relevant keywords, ensuring proper internal linking, implementing redirects, and monitoring broken links
  • Test and refine your custom 404 page based on user feedback and analytics data
  • Consider implementing advanced tips and tricks, such as integrating contact forms, using humor, creating multilingual 404 pages, and leveraging analytics

By investing time and effort into creating a well-designed and user-friendly custom 404 page, you can turn a potentially negative user experience into an opportunity to engage and retain visitors on your WordPress website.

FAQs

  1. Can I customize my 404 page without using a plugin?
    Yes, you can create a custom 404 page in WordPress without using a plugin by creating a 404 page template in your theme files. This method requires some coding knowledge but provides more flexibility and control over the design and content of your 404 page.
  2. How often should I update my custom 404 page?
    It’s a good practice to review and update your custom 404 page periodically, especially if you make significant changes to your website’s design, structure, or content. Aim to update your 404 page at least once a year to ensure that it remains relevant, helpful, and aligned with your website’s goals.
  3. Are there any WordPress themes with built-in custom 404 page templates?
    Yes, some WordPress themes come with pre-designed custom 404 page templates that you can easily customize to match your website’s branding. When choosing a WordPress theme, look for one that offers a customizable 404 page template to save time and effort in creating one from scratch.
  4. Can I redirect my 404 page to the homepage or another specific page?
    While redirecting your 404 page to the homepage or another specific page is possible, it’s generally not recommended. A custom 404 page that provides helpful information and navigation options is more user-friendly and can help retain visitors on your site. However, if you have a specific reason for redirecting your 404 page, you can use plugins like Redirection or 301 Redirects to set up the desired redirect.
  5. How can I prevent 404 errors from occurring on my WordPress site?
    To minimize the occurrence of 404 errors on your WordPress site, follow these best practices:
    • Regularly check for and fix broken links using tools like Broken Link Checker
    • Implement 301 redirects when deleting or moving pages to guide users and search engines to the new location
    • Ensure that all internal and external links on your site are properly formatted and up-to-date
    • Use a reliable web hosting service to minimize server-related issues that may cause 404 errors
    • Keep your WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated to the latest versions to avoid compatibility issues that may lead to 404 errors

By following the advice in this guide and staying proactive in maintaining your WordPress site, you can create an effective custom 404 page and minimize the impact of 404 errors on your website’s user experience and search engine rankings.

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