Content Ideas – 404 Error Pages


GOAL

This tutorial has two main objectives:

  • Find any 404 error pages of your competitors.
  • Determine if you should re-build the content of those pages and, if so, how to reach out to those who linked to those 404 pages and bring those links to your site.

Competitor pages that no longer exist can provide great content ideas. The trick is in
discovering whether those pages are valuable enough to spend time and money rebuilding. This
process takes time, but the results of rebuilding good pages and gaining their links can be
invaluable.

STEP 1. FIND 404 ERROR PAGES

It can be easier to explain this process using an industry example, so consider this: If you are a
home remodeler, you would know that one site that ranks high for many of your industry
keywords is DIY.com. Therefore, you want to analyze this site to determine if you could do
anything better or perhaps capitalize on anything that your competitor did poorly on their site.

Start by typing your competitor’s website URL into the program Open Site Explorer. Then click
on the tab “Top Page” to find all the top pages of that website. Next, click on “Download CSV”
to export this information to a CSV file.

download CSV file

In the CSV file, filter the results by Column C “HTTP Status” and deselect everything except “404
Error Pages.” The remainder will be all the 404 pages of that website.

404 pages

In reviewing the 404 pages, there’s one that shows 23 websites linked to it. Now you need to
find out what the page was about and why so many websites were linking to a page that
doesn’t even exist.

404 pages

STEP 2. DETERMINE WHAT THE PAGES WERE

Since a 404 page won’t open, you need to know what information was on that page before you
decide on recreating it. The site Archive.org (also known as The Way Back Machine) can help
you do this.

Type in the URL of the 404 page and click “Take Me Back.” You’ll see a calendar with blue dots
that show when the page was last downloaded to a server. You may have to go back a bit
before you click on a date that brings up the page, as it may have been in a 404 status for a long
time. Just keep clicking on the blue dots until the page opens.

determine what the pages were

Read through the page to learn what it was about. For our example, the page we sought is
some type of awards page. To get an idea of the page’s value, go back to the CSV file to see how
many sites linked to that page and how many people shared it.

determine what the pages were

STEP 3. HOW EASY IS IT TO DUPLICATE?

To decide if you should reproduce a page you need to know two things: will it be expensive to
reproduce and do I need this type of page. Remember that cost can include time, money or
both.

find out if it is worth duplicating

our example, 23 websites had linked to that 404 awards page, and we need to know why. Put
the 404 page URL into Open Site Explorer and click on the tab “Linking Domains” to see the
actual pages that linked to the awards page.

Click on those links to see each page and determine if you have anything in common with the
page that linked to the site, making it easy and inexpensive to duplicate.

Use a PR Template (download this from our website) to keep track of who you want to reach
out to and influence; in this case the 23 linking websites. Copy the 23 URLs of the linking
websites and paste them into the PR template under the appropriate categories: media outlets,
bloggers, etc.

In the “Example” column, put the URL of the 404 awards page that we want to reproduce. In
the “Ease” Column, list from 0 to 5 how easy it would be to influence the owners of the linking
sites, with 5 being easiest. Any site with an email would be a 5 since you have a viable contact
option. Do this for all 23 sites that linked to the 404 page.

STEP 4. WHAT IS THE ESTIMATED VALUE?

To determine this, go back to Open Site Explorer and put in the URL of the 404 error page we’re
analyzing. Click on “Linking Domains” and review the data. In our example, 13 percent of the
sites linking to the 404 page were organizations or .org sites. Then look at the “Domain
Authority” column to see if these pages are junk or are real sites. If the sites are real, Google
will like it if you’re associated with those pages.

estimated value

Now go back to your PR Template and determine an estimated value of 1 to 5 for the 404 page,
with 5 being the highest. Using our example, the 404 awards page has a Domain Authorization
of 51, has 377 links, and is a .org site. This makes it pretty valuable. Based on this and on the
content of the site, we can give it an estimated value of 4. The PR Template will then
automatically multiply those values to give the page a Priority Value of 20.

When you start listing hundreds of resources on this template, the Priority Value will help you
know where to start when re-creating the various pages. You can even color code each section
associated with a 404 page and add comments if necessary.

So now you have real data to determine whether or not to rebuild a particular site and that it
could take you lots of places if you do rebuild it.

STEP 5. PLAN TO RE-BUILD IT

Once you decide to rebuild the page, add it to your Convent Inventory Document in the
appropriate category. This will help you stay organized and make sure the pages you’re building
are optimized for the search engines with the appropriate keywords.

Paste the URL of the 404 page in the Example column and link to the PR Template or add a note
that 23 sites link to this page so you know why you’re rebuilding this page.

plan to re-build it

the end you won’t just have ideas. You’ll have detailed information that tells you what you’re
going to do and why.

STEP 6. REACH OUT TO THE WEBSITES THAT LINKED TO
YOUR COMPETITORS’ CONTENT AND GET THEM TO LINK TO
YOUR NEW CONTENT

Once you rebuild the 404 page and publish the new content on your website, you then need to
reach out to those websites that linked to the original 404 page to ask if they will now link to
you. Email is the easiest way to do this, and we have a great template to follow.

email template

Start by telling them why you’re contacting them, and then show the link for the new
page/updated resource. Engage the contact by asking them to connect with you and provide
your contact information to show that you’re a real person and not spam.

You may find that recreating one valuable resource and connecting with those who linked to it
can be worth as much as one year’s worth of normal SEO and content development work.

SUMMARY

To successfully recreate competitors’ 404 pages and connect with those who linked to it, follow
these steps:

  • Find the 404 Error Pages of your competitors.
  • Determine what the pages were.
  • Assess how easy each will be to duplicate.
  • Determine the page’s estimated value.
  • If the page value is high, plan to re-build it.
  • Re-build the content and then reach out to the websites that originally linked to your competitors’ content and get them to link to your new content.

Content that was popular in the past and is now 404 can be recreated to pull in lots of new
links and quickly build up your site’s popularity on the search engines. Take the time to find,
analyze and recreate your competitors’ 404 pages for better SEO rankings than ever before.

For this tutorial, you will need: