Learn how to create a custom WordPress 404 page manually or using these best WordPress plugins if your theme doesn’t have one already or if you are looking to customize it.
Your theme should include a WordPress 404 Page to correctly display for all not found 404 errors on your website.
It’s important that your website delivers 404 error page when a link followed on your website is not found resulting in a server HTTP 404 code.
Most of the WordPress themes will have the 404 error page built in as there is default template structure built in WordPress for displaying 404 page (Not Found). WordPress will automatically display the built-in 404 page if the Not Found error occurs.
If your theme doesn’t have one or if you are looking to further customise your default WordPress 404 error page, this short guide might be of help.
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How to Create an Effective WordPress 404 Page
A custom 404 page needs to provide helpful information to your visitors that reached a non-existent page on your site.
You should clearly mention that the page doesn’t exist on the website and provide additional information such as search box that can help users to find what they are looking on your website.
An effective 404 page will help you retain the visitors and encourage them to further explore your website.
Here’re few more suggestions on creating an effective 404 page.
- Display a helpful message to inform the visitors that the page wasn’t found on your website.
- Match the design and keep the branding of the 404 page consistent with other pages on your website.
- You can list popular pages on your website, latest blog posts or links to homepage and sitemap that can be helpful to the users.
- Encourage users to report broken links that led them to the 404 error page.
Having an effective 404 error page is really useful for your visitors and can be important from an SEO perspective. You should be tracking your 404 errors and creating redirects to the appropriate pages.
Best Plugins for WordPress 404 Page
There are several WordPress plugins that can help you create an effective 404 error page and track your 404 errors.
Be careful of using the popular 404 plugins in the WordPress directory that simply redirect all your 404 errors to the homepage. I don’t think that’s the right way to handle 404 errors and don’t recommend such plugins.
Let’s look into some of the best plugins that can be helpful for your WordPress 404 page solutions in the right way.
WordPress 404 Page – Smart Custom 404 Error Page Plugin
Smart Custom 404 Error Page Plugin is one of the best plugins that is helpful to create the 404 error pages the right way. The plugin does not create additional server requests as it doesn't create any other redirects.
The plugin makes it easy to create custom 404 page just like any other page on WordPress.
Follow this two-step process to create WordPress 404 page using this plugin.
1. First, create a New Page in your website or blog and publish it.
2. Then go to ‘Appearance’ -> ‘404 Error Page’ and select the page that you just published for your custom 404 error page.
You can click on the Test 404 Error button to check if it works as intended. Click save changes if you are happy with how your 404 page looks.
Custom 404 Pro Plugin
Another plugin that lets you control your custom 404 page, is the Custom 404 Pro Plugin.
The plugin lets you assign any pages that you have created as custom 404 page for your WordPress website. It will replace your default 404 page if you already have included in your theme.
This plugin also allows you to specify a URL for page or post that should be redirected for 404 not found errors.
You can define the settings and make the changes in the admin page of the plugin.
Go to Custom 404 Pro -> Settings and select your custom 404 error page from the drop down menu.
You can select either a specific WordPress page or a URL for all the 4o4 redirect requests.
WordPress Page: Select any WordPress page as a 404 page.
URL: Redirect 404 requests to a specific URL
The plugin also has 404 Logs section that will show you details such as what keywords lead the visitors to the 404 not found URL on your website.
Customize WordPress 404 Page Manually
If you are comfortable with code, you can do a lot of customizations to your 404 error page without the use of any plugins.
Creating an error 404 page is pretty easy. First, you will need to check if your WordPress Theme already includes a template named 404.php. (Most well-coded WordPress themes will have one already.)
If your theme doesn’t have one, use a code editor such as Atom to create a file named
404.php and upload to your current theme directory.
Use FTP software to upload the file to the directory of the current theme on your website. This should be inside
Here’s a sample 404.php template from latest WordPress default theme 2017 for your inspiration.
The file basically includes tags to display the header, footer, and the custom body area for your error message.
The official WordPress Codex also has detailed information on creating Error 404 pages.
If you have one already, you can customise it further by adding a helpful message and other elements to make it an effective 404 page.
Let me know if you have any suggestions or if the article was helpful to you in creating a helpful WordPress 404 page for your visitors.