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outdated links or internal server errors.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outdated link and receive the dreaded error page, they'll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 edit. 

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 
403 Forbidden 
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 your HTML

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 server. 

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 choice.

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 may visit:

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.

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 to sign up
for a free subscription to Etips and receive a free copy of
the highly acclaimed ebook, "Killer Internet Marketing