If a visitor arrives at your site and the page they are trying to access is not available, they will see a 404 or not found error message page. This could happen if they typed in the URL of an internal page incorrectly, clicked on a misspelt link, or the page they are looking for has been removed from your site.
Whatever the reason for this error page to be displayed, it can be off-putting to the visitors and can create a bad first impression with your potential new readers, clients, or customers.
Thankfully, as ever, there are a number of plugins available that allow you to solve this problem on your site, and even take advantage of 404 not found errors.
404 Error Page Plugins for WordPress
Here is a selection of mostly free 404 error page WordPress plugins that can help you turn this humble error page into something much more useful and user friendly.
This free plugin is very easy to use and simply allows you to forward your visitors to a single page on your site should they generate a 404 page error.
If someone is linking to your site using an invalid URL that just doesn’t exist anymore, and you can’t get them to change it, then this plugin ensures any visitors following that link can bypass the error page and access a piece of content of your choice.
A simple but effective way to deal with 404 errors on your WordPress site.
This free plugin gives you some more tools for dealing with 404s, so if you want to do more than just send visitors who generate these 404 errors than send them all to the same page, then this could be for you.
One option with this plugin is to display a list of suggested posts on the 404 error page. This approach still informs the visitor that the page they are looking for cannot be found, but it also gives them an easy way to find the other content on your site.
The 404 Redirected plugin logs all errors of this type as they happen on your site, allowing you to fix them or setup individual redirects for each one. For example, if you notice users are spelling the address of an internal page on your site incorrectly, then you can quickly setup a redirect for that URL to forward them onto their intended destination.
Setting up manual redirects is easy and you can add as many as you need for your site, and then revisit them when they are no longer required. If you need a bit more functionality, then this free plugin could be a good choice.
If you are happy displaying the default 404 error page, and then taking corrective action to resolve any page not found issues as they arise, then the free 404 Error Monitor plugin is a good option.
While it won’t redirect users elsewhere when they generate a 404 error, it logs those occasions when it happens. The 404 Error Monitor plugin records a selection of useful information when an error occurs, such as the referring site, and the error hit count.
By recording the referring site, you can easily track down the source of the visitors that are generating these error codes and take steps to fix the issue. This could include asking for the address of a link on an external site to be changed, or creating a new page for that URL.
This free plugin gives you the tools to create custom 404 error pages for your WordPress site.
The features are very basic, although easy to use, and the default design is pretty horrific. However, is you want an easy to use option that you can customize fairly well, then this could be an OK choice
This free 404 error page plugin has got a few negative reviews on the WordPress.org repository so proceed with caution. However, this seems to be a common trait of the free 404 page builder plugins on offer.
This free plugin lets you easily assign an existing page on your site to be used as the 404 error page. This is a better option than a free 404 page builder plugin, like the one above, as you can just create a regular page in WordPress and then let the plugin do the rest.
To use 404page, just create a page as normal, using the full capabilities of WordPress and any plugins you’ve installed, and then through the plugin settings (Settings > 404 Error Page) set your chosen page to be used when a 404 error code is generated by your site.
If time is of the essence and you don’t want to mess about, 404page is a great choice.
The plugin allows you to add widgets to your 404 error page, allowing you to display a range of content to your visitors who can’t find what they are looking for. This is easily done by simply dragging and dropping the widgets you want to display onto the newly created 404 Error Page widget area, from the Appearance > Widgets page on your site’s admin dashboard.
The plugin also includes a Search Form widget which is ideal for placing on your 404 page and letting your new arrivals search for the content they were originally hoping to find.
As well as dealing with 404 errors, the Genesis Widgetized Not Found & 404 plugin includes support for customizing the ‘search not found’ page which is displayed if a user searches for something on your site and no results are found.
If you are using this framework and one of its many child themes, then this useful Genesis plugin could be a good option for you.
Last but not least, this plugin is a great choice if you are feeling altruistic and want to do your bit for humanity on a page on your site you previously weren’t utilizing.
This free plugin uses the 404 page to display the details of a missing child. The NotFound.org 404 Page plugin uses an iframe to insert the information into your page from the Notfound.org website.
It’s worth noting that this service only features missing children from some countries in Europe. This means it might not be the best choice for US based sites, or those that that receive most of their visitors from outside of the EU.
This is a premium option available from CodeCanyon that includes all the best features of the different free options and offers them up in one easy to use package.
If you want to add a professional looking set of 404 pages to your WordPress site with a minimal amount of effort then the WordPress Ultimate 4040 Plugin is well worth checking out.
404 page not found errors are inevitable on almost any website. If you don’t take action to either create a custom page or set up redirects to new pages or your site’s homepage, you could be losing visitors that might otherwise go on to become loyal readers or customers.
By installing a free plugin you can go a long way to reducing the amount of visitors your site is leaking due to their intended page not being found.
Have you seen any creative uses of 404 error pages on a website?