June 6, 2002
Table of Contents
Quote of the Week
Featured Resource - SYSTEMAX BUILD-TO-ORDER
Staff Article -
USING OR AVOIDING ERROR PAGES
Marketing Tip of the Week
Guest Article -
THE 5 MOST COMMON SEO MISTAKES
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USING OR AVOIDING ERROR PAGES
by: Cary Christian
It's happened to everyone. You
click on a link or type in a URL and get the following message or some
variation of it:
"HTTP Error 404
404 Not Found
The Web server cannot find the file or script you asked for. Please check
the URL to ensure that the path is correct.
Please contact the server's administrator if this problem persists."
Chances are good that you will give up trying to find the page after
receiving this message. You will probably assume the page no longer exists
or has been moved and that you will not be able to find it. You could type
in variations of the URL or just go to the domain name portion of the URL to
search for the page, but more often than not you'll move on to another site
and won't think much about it.
But what if it's your site people are looking for when they receive this
message? You don't want them to move on! It's a very simple process to help
them find what they're looking for without leaving your site. Here's how to
CREATE A CUSTOM ERROR PAGE
First of all, you want to get rid of that ugly standard error page. Create a
custom error page that explains the URL your visitor was searching for has
moved, been renamed, or no longer exists. Then give them some options. Place
a site search form on the page so they can search for the information they
were looking for. Put a site map on the page so they can browse the
information you provide on your site. Place your normal navigation buttons
on this page. Make the page attractive and inviting. Make the visitor want
to stay for awhile. Give the visitor options to keep them on your site.
REPLACING THE STANDARD ERROR PAGE
You will need to locate or create a file named ".htaccess" on your web
server. If it exists, you are going to open it in a text editor and edit the
contents. If it does not exist, you are going to create it and upload it to
your web server.
Let's say you named your new custom error page as follows:
Find the .htaccess file, open it and type the following in the first line of
ErrorDocument 404 http://www.yourdomain.com/oops.htm
If you do not find the .htaccess file, simply type the above into a blank
text file, save it as .htaccess and upload it to your server. Make sure the
file name is .htaccess, not .htaccess.txt or something similar. Some text
editors place the .txt at the end of the name automatically. If yours does,
simply rename the file after you've saved it.
Once you upload the .htaccess file and your new custom error page to your
website, your new page will display anytime someone clicks on a link to a
page on your site that no longer exists.
If you do not maintain your own site, explain to your web designer what you
want to do and they will be able to do it for you easily.
If you are on a Windows hosting plan using Internet Information Server (IIS)
on the Web server, you'll have to email the URL for your custom 404 page to
your hosting company and ask them to edit the properties of your site to use
that page as your 404 error message. This is because you generally will not
have access to IIS where these changes are made using a GUI interface rather
than in the .htaccess file.
In fact, if you are uncomfortable editing the .htaccess file for any reason,
just create your custom error page and contact your hosting company to let
them make the .htaccess changes for you. They should be happy to do so.
You can also create custom error pages for other errors like error 401 -
Unauthorized and 403 - Forbidden if you need to. You add them to the .htaccess
file in the same manner.
AVOIDING 404 ERRORS
It is preferable that your visitors never reach a 404 error page. If you
remove a page from your site or rename a page, it is a good idea to keep the
old page in existence and simply cause it to redirect to a page that offers
the same or similar information that was offered on the old page.
Almost any type of log analysis software you might use to analyze the
traffic you get to your site will also provide you with information on 404
errors. It will tell you what page people were searching for when they
received the error. Use this information to create a blank replacement page
with the same name and redirect the page to your new page.
Let's assume you used to have a page on your site for a book you used to
sell that was named "book1.htm." You found or wrote another book to replace
the old one and created a sales page for it named "book2.htm." Create a
blank web page named "book1.htm" and use the following HTML code to redirect
the visitor to your new "book2.htm" page:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;
When people click a link they find for your old book1 sales page they will
automatically be redirected to your new book2 sales page without receiving
an error message. You can simply copy and paste the above code into any
blank page and change the URL to the page you want to redirect to.
Custom error pages and redirects are very easy precautions to take. Traffic
is difficult to come by. It costs you time, money or both to get people to
visit your site. So when they do visit, you don't want to give them any
reason to go away before they see what you have to offer.
Copyright (c) 2002
Tip of the Week
In the staff article above we talk about using
redirect pages to avoid your visitors getting 404 not found errors when they
click on old links to your site. You can also use them to track your
advertising efforts. For example, if you belong to affiliate programs you
can create your own redirect page for use in advertising materials that
ultimately takes the visitor to your affiliate site. This way you use your
own URL in advertsing rather the usually long and ugly one for your
affiliate site. You will also be able to track your hits just by counting
the number of hits to your redirect URL in your website logs. A rather major
side benefit is that the use of this type of redirect has also been shown to
increase response to your ads!
THE 5 MOST
COMMON SEO MISTAKES
By Kalena Jordan
Having been in the business of optimizing web sites for high
search engine rankings for over five years now, I have come across a number
of "optimized" sites that use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques
that are just plain WRONG.
Most of these sites were optimized by persons just starting out; SEO
beginners not yet familiar enough with the industry to determine SEO fact
from SEO fiction. But whatís scary is that some of the sites Iíve seen using
incorrect methods have been optimised by so called search engine
optimization "experts" who really should know better.
Some common themes develop amongst incorrectly optimized sites. Could YOU be
making the same errors with your site? To find out, letís look at the five
most common search engine optimization mistakes:
1) Non Utilization of the Title Tag
How many times have you looked at a web site where the browser title reads
"Welcome to [company name]ís web site" or simply "[Company Name]"? Nothing
wrong with that, I hear you say? Well if you want to achieve high search
engine rankings, thereís PLENTY wrong with it.
You see, while it may not be common knowledge amongst web designers, most
search engines index the content of title tags and consider it to be one of
the most important factors in their relevancy algorithm. What you place in
your title can make or break your ranking for particular search terms on the
various engines. If you donít include your most important search phrases
within your title tag, you are overlooking a vital opportunity in your quest
for higher search rankings.
Having said this, you should try and keep your title tag to a maximum of 200
characters, as that is the average limit most search engines will truncate
to. If you really insist on including your company name in your title and
youíre willing to sacrifice good keyword real estate to do so, put it at the
very end of the tag, because search engines give more relevancy "weight" to
content at the start of your tag.
2) Use of Untargeted Keywords and Phrases
Another common mistake made by webmasters and SEO learners is their choice
of keywords placed in the META keyword tag. Sure it might seem logical to
target the word "printers" if you run a printer repair business in Ohio, but
think about it - even if you succeeded in ranking well for such a
competitive term (you wonít), how many of the people visiting your site as a
result of this search would leave as soon as they saw your home page? Thatís
right, most of them. All the people who wanted to buy printers, all the
people looking for businesses outside Ohio, all the people not looking
specifically for printer repairers.
Does it become clear now that targeting such a generic word is a waste of
time? What you need to do instead is optimize your site for search terms and
phrases that are highly targeted to your precise business. Use a tool such
as Wordtracker (keyword location software) to find what people are actually
typing in to the search engines to find goods and services similar to yours
and concentrate on ranking well for those terms. The more qualified your
site visitors are, the more likely you are to convert those visitors into
3) A Lack of Optimized Body Text
This one is very common. How often do you visit a home page that is made up
entirely of graphics? You know the ones - they consist of an enormous Flash
file or maybe a large logo or a montage of images, but the thing they have
in common is a distinct lack of text. Think they look professional? Think
again. No matter what you read or hear, if a site has no text on the home
page, it hasnít been correctly optimized and has little chance of ranking
well in the search engines. Now thatís unprofessional in my opinion.
Beginner SEOís often make the mistake of creating an optimized title tag and
META tags and believing their work is done. WRONG. If you want a web site to
rank well in the search engines, you need to give them what they want to see
- visible content that is optimized just as well as the invisible content.
That means adding keyword-filled body text to any page you want ranking
high. Why? Because most search engines canít index images. Some engines
donít even index META tags anymore. So a site with no visible content
becomes effectively invisible to a search engine and has almost no chance of
appearing in the rankings for logical searches.
Also, search engine algorithms have become smarter and are now checking that
sites contain highly relevant content before including them in their index.
If you expect to rank well for a particular keyword or phrase, itís not too
much to expect to find that keyword or phrase within your site is it?
4) Submitting to 1,000 Search Engines
I love this one. Iíve lost count of how many banner ads or web sites Iíve
seen boasting "Weíll submit your site to 1,000 search engines!" I canít
believe the hype is still prevalent that you need to submit a web site to
thousands of search engines in order to receive traffic. This is just NOT
In fact, studies show that approximately 90% of search traffic still comes
from the 10 major U.S. search engines and directories (listed here -
). Companies that advertise submission to thousands of search engines are
usually including in that list minor engines or directories that utilize the
databases of major engines anyway (so donít require submission) or a large
number of Free For All (FFA) sites. Submitting your site to FFA pages can
damage your siteís reputation in the search engines, because they consider
FFA sites to be of very low quality and utilizing "spamdexing" techniques in
an attempt to falsely inflate a siteís link popularity. Iíve even seen
examples of sites being banned from a search engine for having their pages
listed on FFA sites by ill-informed webmasters without the site ownerís
If you are targeting specific geographic markets, you might like to submit
your site to the most popular regional search engines in those countries,
but the fact is that most people worldwide continue to use the U.S. versions
of search engines such as Yahoo and AltaVista despite the fact that there
are local versions available. The bottom line? Get your site listed on the
10 most popular search engines and directories and you will have the major
worldwide traffic sources covered.
5) Resubmitting Too Soon and Too Often
So youíve optimized your site and submitted it to the most important search
engines. But itís been three weeks and you havenít received any traffic.
Time to resubmit, right? WRONG. Depending on the search engine, they can
take up to twelve weeks to include your site in their index. Each search
engine and directory work to their own time frame. You need to check their
average submission times (a chart is here -
and be patient.
So when youíre in, what then? You should regularly submit to ensure youíre
ranked above your competitors, maybe once a month or once a week, right?
WRONG AGAIN. Once youíre in a search engineís database, there is no need to
resubmit your site. Itís pointless actually, because they already know about
your site and their robot is scheduled to revisit and reindex all sites in
the database on a regular basis. Resubmitting wastes everybodyís time and
can actually get your URL permanently banned from a search engine for "spamdexing".
The only time you need to resubmit your site to a search engine is if your
URL changes or if your domain suddenly drops out of their database entirely.
NOT if your ranking drops, NOT if your content changes, but if the domain is
actually nowhere to be found in the index (this can happen from time to time
as the search engines Spring clean their databases). A good SEO will monitor
your rankings regularly (monthly is fine) and only resubmit when absolutely
So those are the five most common SEO mistakes. Any sound familiar? Donít
worry, youíre in good company. Now that youíve recognised the problem areas
and are better equipped with the correct information, youíll be able to
reverse the damage.
Article by Kalena Jordan, CEO of Web Rank.
Kalena was one of the first search engine optimization experts in
Australasia and is well known and respected in her field. For more of
her articles on search engine ranking and online marketing, please visit
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