Just as I was reviewing my handling of 404s, along comes a piece from Google with timely advice.
In this post I propose a few techniques to help improve error pages, engage visitors and improve the website experience. 404 Errors and Best Practice [analytics.blogspot.com]
Whilst it didn't give me new ideas, it did remind me about Google Analytics and how that may help.
I do monitor the errors closely, but not using GA.
I find that most 404s I see are caused by users (scrapers or hackers) searching for pages that were never there. They are, im sure, taking a pop at a generic page name seeking a hack opportunity.
I'm more concerned over the occasional error that has crept in and is user facing. Stuff happens, files get moved or deleted, or an error creeps in at the last site update.
We all work hard enough to win traffic, so the last thing I want is users stumbling over a lost file or a broken link with nowhere to go, so I serve them a friendly 404.
We've all seen the funny 404s, right? Well, they are just a little bit of fun, of course. I guess i'm probably a little more serious about the 404s, so I like to help the user as much as possible with additional links, help opportunities, and reporting. I admit, too, that I run ads (not AdSense), where appropriate, on some of them, too. Why not? It seems a shame to not promote and market the site, its business, or its special offers.
What are you doing to make effective 404s?