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Custom 404 pages - really a problem?
matuloo




msg:163004
 5:03 pm on Jul 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have searched the forums and found different theories about using custom 404 pages. So has anyone a reliable anser for this? Is that really a problem with google?

I could use the default 404 error page but I somehow dont want to let the traffic go down the drain, there are still some sites linking to pages that I dont longer have on my site but I can still use those surfers so I dont want to dump them unless it is really neccessary.

Any help is appreaciated.

Thanks

 

phpmaven




msg:163005
 12:13 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

matuloo,

What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Are you running Apache? Using PHP?

phpmaven

daamsie




msg:163006
 1:35 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't think there is anything wrong with custom 404 pages. I've always had one and haven't had a single problem. I don't really know how it would cause any problems either? Why would Google cause problems for something that can surely only be seen as 'best practice'.

TheDave




msg:163007
 3:05 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

It probably comes down to how many links you have pointing to 404's as to how much damage it may do. A few won't hurt, but a few hundred might. I know WebmasterWorld uses custom 404's (love that scream guy :)) so they can't be that bad :)

Krapulator




msg:163008
 3:50 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Custom 404's are fine as long as the response code sent in the server headers is correctly identifying it as a 404 error.

jim_w




msg:163009
 6:28 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

And be careful putting an email addy on the 404 page. I once had a harvester go thru and request 1234.htm to get any custom 404 pages with email addys' on them.

Chris_R




msg:163010
 6:35 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Custom 404's are fine as long as the response code sent in the server headers is correctly identifying it as a 404 error.

I agree 100% - and if anyone doesn't know - there is a handy little server header checker if you click at the top of this page and look for "control panel". Listed on the right hand side at the bottom under plug ins - server headers - or you could just click on:

[webmasterworld.com...]

Sometimes there are secret messages - like for linux.com and a few others I have seen (but can't seem to remember off hand).

jim_w




msg:163011
 7:00 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Chris_R

I cannot use that because it does not send a UA, and I give 403s to no UA because they are trouble more often than not, and even if they are a real person, they are being silly to change their UA and I don't have time to mess with them anyway.

Why does it not give a UA of like WEBMW_Agent or something?

Chris_R




msg:163012
 7:33 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well I didn't make it, so I don't know why he did it that way, but two things:

1) There are plenty of other versions of this type of tool on the net

2) I have always been a proponent of NOT blocking no UA as:
a) You'll never know when you need it
b) Those doing it for an EVIL purpose - will have no problem faking another.

However, I believe if I am not mistaken, Brett does like the idea of blocking no ua - so this seems a little odd...

jim_w




msg:163013
 7:47 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

>a) You'll never know when you need it

I don't understand what you mean.

>b) Those doing it for an EVIL purpose - will have no problem faking another

I cannot argue with that.

I have a theory that cuts down on our software support problem. In order to reduce the number of support calls, etc. we try to get computer savvy people only ordering our software. If some end user changes their UA, they clearly don't understand what they are used for by web masters. Like knowing what level of compatibility a page should conform to for most of their visitors, etc. I cannot think of one valid reason to change the UA of a browser that is not doing something funny, and I don't mean ha, ha. So I have to reckon that these type of people will generate many more support calls, etc. than others because they know just enough to be dangerous.

>1) There are plenty of other versions of this type of tool on the net

Got the addy of any of them off hand? You can sticky mail me with them if you wouldn't mind.

Chris_R




msg:163014
 8:30 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't understand what you mean.

Well, not to be a smart ass, but you needed it - and it wasn't there - I guess I should have said "you'll never know when you shouldn't have it" as that would make more sense :)

So I have to reckon that these type of people will generate many more support calls, etc. than others because they know just enough to be dangerous.

I think you are right there - I used to work at a TV/VCR shop and we would get all sorts of problems (like the guy that sprayed wd-40 inside the door of his VCR to grease things up) from people that thought they knew what they were doing.

Some people might change it for privacy reasons, but you are probably right - If I had to do software support - I would rather have 100 calls from people that didn't change their UA - than people that did.

Got the addy of any of them off hand?

Sorry I don't - I know I have seen them before though.

ct2000




msg:163015
 10:32 am on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ok I have a custom 404 but its not showing such in the server header checker.. its showing page found what do I need to do to ensure its sends a real 404 message but still keep my custom 404 ... using PHP/Apache with entry in .htaccess ..... Please ...

hetzeld




msg:163016
 1:18 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

ct2000,

If you're running Apache with support for directory based .htaccess, the only thing you need to do is add a single line entry in your .htaccess file (located at your web's root)

ErrorDocument 404 /my_error_page.html

And that's it. Make sure you are using a local path for your custom 404 page and not a full URL (starting with [),...] otherwise you won't return the right header.

If you want dedicated pages for other type of 400/500 errors, simply add a line for each of them (changing the 404 and filename of course)

Example:

ErrorDocument 403 /my_forbidden_page.html

Dan

TeofenGL




msg:163017
 2:26 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

From what it sounds like, you know what these obsolete URLs are... when I redesigned a large site, I built a 404 page that first looked to see if what was being requested was some old content, then 301 redirected to the closest matching page of the new site, where based on query string parameters, they saw a message regarding the site update at the top of the page... because of the 301s, we managed not to lose much standing at all.

all you need:
.htaccess file defining your (php) script as 404 error handler,
redirect/error script that knows old pages (array),
hooks in whatever is doling out content on the site for a message to visitor (optional, i guess)

vincevincevince




msg:163018
 4:31 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Put this at the top of your 404 file :-)

<?php
header("HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found");
header("Status: 404 Not found");
header("Genius: Vincevincevince");
?>

That will force the headers to be just what you wanted :-)

jim_w




msg:163019
 6:03 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

hetzeld

This may be a silly question, but I have never had any success with a custom 403 page. It would seem to me that if they are 403ed in the .htaccess, how could they fetch a 403.html file unless you put it in a subdirectory that is at least one level down from where they got the 403? Does that make sense an is that possible?

twilight47




msg:163020
 6:14 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

there are still some sites linking to pages that I dont longer have on my site but I can still use those surfers so I dont want to dump them unless it is really neccessary.

Why not use a 301 redirect for those pages, so you can control the pages the user will end up? We have pages the have changed, but people have bookmarked and this helps solve that problem.
Just my 2 cents :)

matuloo




msg:163021
 7:38 pm on Jul 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

thanks for the answers guys, I have checked my settings and the 404 error custom page returns the correct 404 header so I guess I am safe with that.

As for those that ask why I would even need to use a custom 404 page : in my industry it is common to build some pages and delete them after certain time, and in some cases links to these deleted pages are stuck on someones sites so these people are still sending me a few hits daily, so I just redirect them to an relevant advertisement page and thats it.

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