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Making Money From User Errors and Downtime

An article by Leonid Shalimov proposes an interesting idea. The article explains how to customize and monetize your 404 page, and while Leonid restricts it to user error pages, it can be extended to temporary placeholders while you’re having downtime.
The article suggests that since a substantial chunks of traffic to your site and sites on the web in general is a result of mistyped urls, rather than serving a generic 404 page, by taking a few steps you can make money from that page. For example, if you look at the 404 page for the non-existing url www.pronetadvertising.com/doesnotexist, you will see the following:
msaleem 404gen Making Money From User Errors and Downtime
Before we go into Leonid’s suggestions for monetization, here’s a look at some of the things you can do to make a 404 a better experience for the readers, since the generic page doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help the user. If you customize the page to look more like your site, it gives the user the impression that he is still accessing your site and makes it clearer that he just mistyped something. Furthermore, because the mistyped url is more likely one of the more trafficked pages or subdomains on your site, by adding links to popular articles and categories, as well as a site-search bar, you increase the odds of the user clicking on one of the links and returning to your site rather than just closing the window.
It is always better to use a more apologetic and human-tone when writing the error text on your 404 page. Mentioning user errors, servers, not found errors, and errordocuments isn’t the best way to appeal to the average user. Instead, adopt a friendlier, even playful tone while directing the user elsewhere. But you don’t have to stop there. Once you’ve made sure that you’ve customized the page to facilitate the users experience, you can go ahead and add a link to your rss feed on the page, and throw some advertising on there to capture even stray eyeballs.
Coding Horror has more tips on how to create a good 404 page.

 Making Money From User Errors and Downtime

Cameron Olthuis

 Making Money From User Errors and Downtime

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