Your WordPress 404 error page is a very important page on your website. I was looking for a way to edit my 404 page and found a lot of howto’s and manuals about how to do this but these were all about doing it with PHP code. I didn’t find a simple How To to edit my 404 error page just like adding a post or a page in WordPress so I thought I show you how to customize your WordPress 404 error page the easy way.
Many people don’t realize it, but if you don’t adjust your 404 error page you can miss out on a lot of visitors. Read my article called why Not Customizing Your 404 Error Page Costs You Money. Some themes already added a customized 404 error page, but if that is not the case I will show you in this article how to create one step by step.
If you prefer customizing your WordPress 404 error page with PHP then I advice you to look at the WordPress Codex page here.
In this How To/Tutorial I will be using a demo site with the Twenty Fourteen Theme. This theme is automatically added to your installation of WordPress.
This is how the standard Twenty Fourteen Theme 404 Error Page looks like:
Not really inviting isn’t it?
Here is How To Customize Your 404 Error Page
NOTE! Before you start editing files please backup your WordPress website completely!
Step 1: Create a New Page
I am assuming that you have basic WordPress skills and you can create a simple new page. For those who are not: Go to the left menu, click on Pages, then click on Add New.
Step 2: Create a catchy title
I choose to give my 404 error page the title YOU CAUGHT ME! but of course you can choose your own catchy title.
Step 3: Create Your New 404 Error Page
Be creative in creating your 404 error page. You could add an opt-in form with a freebee. If you own an E-commerce website you could offer a XX% discount to make it up to your visitor for your mistake. Help your visitor to find what he or she is looking for by adding a list of your latest blog posts, adding a search form, adding a list of latest products or featured products.
TIP! Try to look at it through the eyes of your visitor. What would attract YOU to stay on a website when you get a 404 error page?
This is what I created:
Now when you are happy with what you have created hit the Publish button.
NOTE! Did you use an Opt-in Form? TEST IT!!!!
Step 4: Add a Plugin called: Custom 404 Error Page
To point your WordPress website to your newly created 404 error page without coding you need a small free plugin called Custom 404 Error Page. Click on Plugins in the left menu and press Add New. Now in the search form type in Custom 404 Error Page and press Search Plugins.
It should be the first Plugin in the list. Now click on Install Now.
After installation activate the plugin by clicking Activate Plugin.
Step 5: Point to Your New 404 Error Page
After installing the plugin in step 4, click on Settings in the menu on the left side and then click on Reading. You notice an extra option on the bottom of the page called: Page for Error 404 (Not Found). This is now set to the default 404 error page. Just click on the down arrow and select your new added 404 error page in the list. Now click on Save Changes and voilla.
Step 6: Test Your Newly Added 404 Error page
Now that you pointed your WordPress page to your newly added 404 error page you can test it by opening your browser and type in www.yourdomain.com/a-page-that-doesnt-exist
Of course there is something wrong if people are landing on your 404 error page and you should always prevent this from happening. They where not looking for this page, but for some reason they landed there. Try to figure out how they got there and fix it if you can. You can check your broken links with this cool FREE plugin called: Broken Link Checker. It scans your WordPress page for links and checks if the links aren’t dead. You can even set it up to send you an email if it finds a dead link. Read my article to get more tips on how you can prevent visitors from landing on your WordPress 404 Error Page.
So in this How To I showed you how to customize your 404 error page the easy way. Please leave a comment. If you find this post useful, please share it on Social Media. You would do me a great favor. Wanna be the first to know about new WordPress How To posts or articles that could help you improve your online business, then leave your name and email address below here or at the top of this page.