Page Not Found Error Handling

By default, Yahoo Stores redirect page not found errors (404) to the home page of your store. While this does allow visitors to enter your store from the home page to try and find the item for which they were searching, search engines will continue to index the pages that cannot be found. On the other hand, a poorly designed 404 error page that does not provide information or a means to resume looking for the item may cause shoppers to leave your site.

You can choose to keep the current setting (redirect to store home page) or create a custom 404 error page to show visitors rather than redirect page not found errors. To use a custom 404 page you will need to

  1. Create the custom 404 page
  2. Customize the page
  3. Set the Page Not Found Error Handling to custom 404 error page.

Each of these steps is outlined below.

To create a custom 404 page:

  1. Sign in to your account and launch the Store Editor.
  2. Click the red arrow in the Editor toolbar to switch to Advanced Editing mode.
  3. Click the "Contents" button in the Editor toolbar.
  4. Click the "New" button below the Editor toolbar on the Contents page. (The Create New Object page opens.)
  5. Enter a page ID for your error page. We recommend making the ID something that is easy to remember and descriptive of the page such as "404" or "404error".
  6. Select a type from the menu:
    • If you want to offer a search box on your custom 404 page, select search as the type.
    • If you want a page with the same fields as an item, select item as the type. You can also add a search box to any Store Editor page.
    • If your site is built with custom HTML pages, select raw-html as the type.
  7. Click Continue. (The new page you created loads in Edit mode so you can begin to customize the page.)

To customize the page:

  1. Enter the template id.
  2. Enter or edit the "Name" field of the page (Enter descriptive text that alerts the visitor to the problem such as "Sorry, Page Not Found".)
  3. Enter a caption to appear on the page (see best practices below).
  4. Click "Update" when finished.
  5. Publish your changes.
  6. Go to the "Preferences" page accessible from the link in the Site Settings column of the Store Manager to change your Page Not Found Handling setting.

Tip: If you do not have time to create a custom 404 error page, you can enter your store home pageID (index) as the custom 404 page. This will present your store's home page to shoppers instead of a 404 page, and will also lead to the removal of the outdated links from the search engines' indices.

404 Error Page Best Practices

The following are best practices for 404 error pages gathered from various articles and web sites. Include those that work best for your particular store.
  • Make the page look like the other pages of your site but keep the choices to a minimum. Remember that the shopper was most likely trying to find a specific item. If they do not see it they may hit the "Back" button and leave. You need to convey information to help them find what they were looking for quickly.
  • Include an error message but do not blame the visitor. While the visitor may have mistyped the URL (entering .htm instead of .html), they may also be using a link in search results to a page which no longer exists on your site (such as an out of stock item or product no longer offered). You can explain why the problem may have happened (old item, mistyped URL). Use the "Name" or "Headline" field to include a header such as "Sorry—The page could not be found".
  • Include a prominent link to your home page or site index so shoppers can continue to search for the item.
  • Include an email link for customers to report broken links or more importantly order the item for which they were looking.
  • Include a search box. If you select "Search" as the type when creating a new page, the page will automatically include the search box field. You can also add a search box to any Store Editor page.
  • Include a redirect to your home page after a period of time. Experts disagree on what is best here. Some sites give visitors enough time to read the error message and then redirect the user automatically to the home page. Other sites provide ways for the user to search for an item. If you do use a redirect, inform visitors as a courtesy that they will be redirected after a certain amount of time. Allow enough time for visitor to read or search for a product before redirecting them.

To set the Page Not Found Error Handling option to custom 404 error page:

  1. From the Store Manager, click the "Preferences" link in the Site Settings column.
  2. Select the "use a custom Store Editor error page" option (see A figure 1).
  3. Enter the page ID of your custom 404 error page (see B figure 1). Carefully enter only the page ID—not the full URL or page ID with the .html extension. Yahoo will not check the pageID you enter to determine if it matches an actual page. See "Testing" below for more information.
  4. Click the "Change" button*.

*Note: When returning to the Store Manager, you may notice the "Publish Order Settings" link is active. Changes to the Account Preferences page, where you just selected a page not found handling setting, cause the link to become active. It is not necessary to publish order settings after making a selection.


Figure 1: Account Preferences page showing setting custom 404 option and page ID field

Testing

You can test this feature by entering a URL to your store to a page that does not exist. If you are taken to your custom 404 page then your setting is correct. If you do not see your custom 404 page, but rather a generic Yahoo 404 error page, check that you have:
  • published your custom 404 error page in the Store Editor
  • entered the correct page ID for the custom 404 page on the Preferences page. Enter only the pageID and not the full URL or the pageID with a file extension such as .html.
  • ensure that the page is larger than 512 bytes. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5+ have a feature enabled by default to display "friendly error messages" (read more). Most likely if your page displays any images such as text images or a logo, your page will exceed 512 bytes*. You can check the size of the page by viewing the page in your web browser and choosing the "Properties" command from the File menu. The Properties dialog appears displaying file information including the size (see A figure 2)

*Note: It is possible, though unlikely, that a visitor would not see your custom 404 error page even if the file size exceeded 512 bytes. Microsoft Windows includes a registry setting whereby a user can set a threshold for showing "friendly error messages" (from Microsoft) as opposed to the custom 404 error from a server. If the user has set this threshold to a higher value (again unlikely) and your page did not exceed that threshold value, your custom 404 error would not be displayed.


Figure 2:Internet Explorer File Properties dialog box

To set the Page Not Found Error Handling option to redirect to store home page:

  1. From the Store Manager, click the "Preferences" link in the Site Settings column.
  2. Select the "redirect to store home page" option.
  3. Click the "Change" button.
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