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WEBSITE MARKETING

Increase Your Traffic by Recovering Your Lost Visitors
By: Developer Shed
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    2003-10-18

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    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    outdated links or internal server errors.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    outdated link and receive the dreaded error page, they'll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:
    http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/graph/

    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
    information.

    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:
    http://www.web-source.net/error.htm

    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
    files.

    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:
    http://www.web-source.net/ftp_basics.htm

    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.

    Copyright © Shelley Lowery 2003.

    About the Author:

    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 Web-Source.net to sign up
    for a free subscription to Etips and receive a free copy of
    the highly acclaimed ebook, "Killer Internet Marketing
    Strategies." http://www.web-source.net/cgi-bin/t.cgi?l=bl1
    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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