How To Make A 404 Error Page And Make Money In The Process

404 error page

The What

Before I show you how to make a 404 error page, let me first ask you a question: “Do you know what a 404 error page is?”

In layman’s terms, a 404 error page is basically a “not found” page on a server. Your browser was able to communicate with the server, but the server could not find what was requested.

Say, for example, that som

eone is trying to access the site (which doesn’t exist). Typically what would happen is that a 404 message will be shown (like in the above picture).

You might be asking yourself “Why would someone give the wrong URL to other people?”

It’s not so much about person A giving person B the wrong URL (though that might happen). It’s more about person B (the receiving end) typing the wrong URL into his browser.

The Why

Whatever the reasons are that triggered the 404 error page, you as a marketer should NOT be wasting this kind of traffic. Since they’re already at your site (the 404 error page), you should be doing everything you can in getting the visitor to take the action that you want them to take.

For me, if someone went to and for some reasons they were taken to a 404 error page, my goal right then and there is to get him into my list. (More on how I do that later in this post).

If your goal is to get your visitors to click on your ads, then whenever a 404 error page shows up, you better do everything you can to achieve your goal. So instead of showing the typical 404 error page (like the picture above), you should be showing your ads.

Make sense?

Now go ahead and try clicking this link (which doesn’t exist, of course).

Guess what shows up even though such a URL doesn’t exist? Yep, the following screen is returned:

404 in action

Even though this URL doesn’t exist, I still try my best to get visitors into my list by offering them a valuable Freebie in exchange for their email address.

By doing this, I’m not wasting any traffic that has already landed on my domain ( Instead I’m trying to squeeze every drop out of them. I figure since I’ve already done all the hard work in getting them to my site, why not do everything I can to get them into my list?

In general (especially if you run a business), you really want to strive to get people into your list. Once they’re in your list, you can follow up with them whenever you want and how often you want, just with the click of an email.

How To Make A 404 Error Page

Now that you know the importance of utilizing the power of 404 pages, your next question, of course, is “How do I make a 404 error page?”

It’s pretty easy actually.

Step 1:

Open Notepad in your computer and copy the following code (written in red):

<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;url=”>

Make sure that you change to the URL that you want to redirect to whenever the visitor reaches a 404 error page. In my example, I have it redirected to whenever a 404 page is reached.

Save your Notepad file with the filename “404.shtml” (without quotes).

Step 2:

Open Notepad in your computer and copy the following code (written in red again):

ErrorDocument 404 /404.shtml

Then save your Notepad file with the filename “.htaccess” (without quotes).

Step 3:

Upload both files (404.shtml and .htaccess) to your server root directory.

Please note that if you already have a .htaccess file on your server, then DO NOT upload the new .htaccess file you just created. Instead open the .htaccess on your server and paste the following code at the very top without deleting or altering any existing code:

ErrorDocument 404 /404.shtml

Done! I’ve shown you how to make a 404 error page.


If you’re currently not utilizing your 404 pages to build more subscribers or to get visitors to click more ads or do whatever you want them to do, you’re leaving traffic (and money) on the table.

You’ve done all the hard work in generating traffic to your site, therefore you should make sure that you squeeze every last drop of your effort. Why waste traffic when you can turn them into money?

Let me know your thoughts about this in a comment below.

20 Responses to “How To Make A 404 Error Page And Make Money In The Process”

  • Hi,

    I really loved this post and the concept, this would definitely improve the ratio of traffic. I’ll try and follow the directions and see how this works. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Hi Wally,

    Just a week ago I was struggling with this problem because I am having an extraordinary number of 404 error hits on my blog. Permalinks are enabled so I have opted to try and use the WP Plugin Redirection to solve the problem. I will see if I can make this work.

    Thanks for the tutorial though.

  • Thanks Welly, I just came across this and will try it for my sites. It seems like a great way to siphon back potentially lost traffic. Cheers!

  • Well, Do you really need to create 404 page or that will be default as long as the URL was not found?

    • Yes you need to create a 404 page and put whatever information you want on that page. Most servers do not have a 404 page set up — meaning they will just say 404 error – page not found.

      • Yes and that can be very embarrassing when you hand out a business card and the potential client sees your 404 page instead of a description of your business. Thanks for the help.

  • There are some sites that you cannot really open at all. However, in this post, you can even earn money because if the blank pages that are not used.

  • I heard about this technique a while ago, but I’ve been too lazy to implement it. Thanks for the tutorial, but can’t this be done through cpanel on a webhost?

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  • Welly,

    I’ve obviously done something wrong, ‘cos all I get is a “server not found” message. Guess I’d better give this idea a miss – too complicated for simple folk like me.


  • @Jane: You check by purposefully typing the wrong URL and see if it redirects correctly to your desired site.

    @Stanley: If does not exist, then yes you will get a 404 not found page, unless you have specified a 404.shtml page as shown in the above post

  • welly.

    i being following you for sometime, does it mean if we enter the wrong URL It will show 404 not found page?

    I means mis type the URL. can it redirect automatically?

  • I’ve followed the instructions I hope!!!
    How do I check to see if it’s working please?

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  • Thanks Welly,

    I gotta try this – and I’m saving this for future reference.

  • @David: Tried the code and it works. I have exactly the same code for my example.

    @Strictly Online Biz: Should work for blogs too. However if you use permalink for your blog, then the above method won’t work.

  • Will this work for blogs also or is it just for websites? It’s a very good idea and I’d like to implement it in my blog.

  • Wally,

    Hate to tell you, but your 404 refresh isn’t working!

    The oops page is… the other example isn’t :(

    Fix it now before the masses surround you – hehehe.


    David Cavanagh

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