Saturday, June 26, 2010

Niche Web Tip - Don't Lose Pages - Redirect

I'm constantly amazed at the number of web pages that go bad. Government, non-profit and commercial websites that seemingly have large budgets often have pages that go missing. It is very frustrating to click on an interesting link and end up at a page that says "404 not found." There is no good reason for this.

At MapCruzin I've tried to make sure that there are no lost pages. The reason I do this is that links exist forever. Who knows how many folks have bookmarked pages or linked to them from websites. Over the 14 years that MapCruzin has been online, I'm sure that there are many thousands.

The first fix, but not the best, is to redirect your "404 not found" to a real web page that will help visitors find what they are looking for. I do this at with this 404page.html. Instead of a page that goes nowhere, folks can search the website and hopefully find what they are looking for.

Better yet is to always redirect pages so that visitors never see your 404 page unless, of course, they type a url incorrectly or the link is configured wrong. If you have moved a page, redirect the old to the new. If you have deleted a page, redirect it to a related page.

Here's how I do these two redirects:

To redirect any "404 not found" to a real web page of your own design, first make a page and name it "404page.html." or anything you like. Then create a file named ".htaccess" in the root directory of your website if it does not already exist. The contents of the "htaccess" file should be "ErrorDocument 404" If you already have an ".htaccess" file, add the content to the existing file.

To redirect any webpage, replace the content of the old page with the following:




The "0" after "CONTENT=" denotes the length of time the server will pause on the page - I set this to zero so there is no pause at all. Place your new page url after "CONTENT="0";URL=".
In this example, the page is redirected to, but you can put any url in there that you like.

This should help lower the aggravation level of your visitors and keep them on your website a bit longer. After all, you've made a great deal of effort to create valuable content so it makes sense to take these relatively simple steps to assure that your visitors find it.

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