Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Using 404 pages

The Google Webmaster blog has been running a series of posts over the past 2 weeks outlining the use of the 404 'response code' which is generated when a server cannot find a requested page, either due to a bad link or a mistyped URL / page name. In these cases websites should display an error page that informs the user of the problem and helps to direct them to the Home Page or other part of the website.

One blog posting describes the differences between a 'soft 404' and 'hard 404' response, recommending that the former shouldn't be used. Then there are a series of FAQs about how the 404 should be used, leading up to the latest blog posting which is promoting the use of a new 'widget' being provided by Google.

This allows webmasters to add some JavaScript to their customised 404 pages which will suggest to a user the closest match to a truncated URL or missing page. In addition, this 404 widget - which is still in test phase - will suggest a link to the parent subdirectory, a sitemap webpage or a site search query suggestions and search box, if these are available on the site.

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