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404 Page Enhancement Widget Offered Through Webmaster Tools

     
3:10 am on Aug 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone used this feature yet?

When a user clicks on a link to a page that's no longer available on your site, your server returns a 404 (Page Not Found) error. Because generic messages can be frustrating to the user, we recommend creating a custom 404 page to provide more useful information about your site.

In addition, you can add the 404 widget to your custom 404 page. The 404 widget automatically provides users with helpful suggestions instead of error messages.

* It adds a search box for your site with appropriate search suggestions.
* It tries to provide alternatives to incorrect URLs.

This makes it easier for users to find the information they need (and makes it less likely that they'll leave your site to look elsewhere.)

I have custom 404's with links to close matches, but it might be a useful feature for some (if you don't mind giving G even more insight in user behavior)...

4:15 am on Aug 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The WebmasterCentral blog made the official announcement yesterday:

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]

It's probably a bit early to hear any success stories or issues with it, but I am also intersted in hearing from early adopeters.

5:00 pm on Aug 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I added it to my 404 page yesterday. Out of several attempts (3 or 4) to access incorrect URLs, I only got a suggested URL once. That one URL suggestion was dead-on correct, though. The search suggestions seemed to work really well. The desired URL was always in the top few on the results page. So, I like it. The best thing is that I was about to try to develop my own solution in PHP so this really helps and is probably better than what I would have hacked together.
1:30 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I've been meaning to make my standard 404 page more worthwhile and have given this widget a go. As far as suggestions for miss-spelt urls the suggestions returned seem to be pretty good.

I already use the google custom search box on my site so what I have done is replace the standard search box in the widget with the custom search box. That way the search results returned the already fit the site and there may be some return if a user makes a search and leaves the site.

Its easily done if anyone is interested. Just amend the widget css to not display the search box:
#goog-wm li.search-goog { display: none; }

Then use the custom search form code at the end of the widget code.

It took a couple of minutes to make these changes but I think it will be time well spent.

6:37 pm on Aug 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

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We ended up using Google Ajax Search API with much success instead of this (actually did not know this existed). When a 404 occurs we strip out the file name that was requested and use it as the query for the search. We show 5 results and usually one of them is what they were looking for.
 

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