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The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Custom 404 Page in WordPress: Turn Errors into Opportunities

The WP Umbrella Team

You click on a promising link, your expectations rising. The page starts to load, but then, boom! You’re hit with a 404 error.

There is nothing worse than linking to a page that is no longer available. Visitor may be disappointed, confused, and make a U-turn, leaving your site promptly.

The good news is that you have something you can do to alleviate the situation: creating an awesome custom 404 page in WordPress.

A well-designed 404 page can not only keep visitors on your site, but also add a dash of humor or style that can actually be good for your branding.

In this tutorial, I’ll explain you how to make a custom 404 page in WordPress to turn these lost opportunities into delightful experiences.

But first, let’s look at why you might get a blank page when trying to access a web page.

Understanding the Anatomy of 404 Errors

404 errors occur when you click on a link and the server does not find the page you requested. Various reasons may be involved.

A 404 Error may display if the website to which the link connected was removed. Typically, this occurs when an outdated page with popular content is removed, despite it having a lot of links pointing to it. 

You might also get a 404 Page Error if a page has been moved to a different domain address. The server may be down (or inaccessible for some reason), resulting in a DNS error. Broken links may also be caused by firewalls, content filters, and other forms of content blocking.

In short, you’ll find broken links everywhere on the internet. Administrators or website owners are responsible for making the experience as pleasant as possible for users. You should keep in mind that Web users are generally impatient when attempting to find information. The user will waste no time looking for another site if they can’t find what they’re looking for on yours.

Studies have shown that users are incredibly impatient online. A fraction of a second can be the difference between keeping a visitor and losing one. So, your WordPress custom 404 page has got to make a solid impression.

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Rand Fishkin, SEO Expert

“A good 404 page can be the difference between a higher bounce rate and increased user engagement.”

How to Create a Custom 404 Page in WordPress?

WordPress gives you several routes to create a good custom 404 page. Here they are:

  • You can edit your theme’s existing 404 page.
  • Create a custom 404 page if your theme does not have one.
  • Install a 404 plugin.

Be careful,if you’re editing a WordPress theme, it’s best to use a child theme. This way, you won’t be overwritten by theme updates.

Option 1: Edit Your Theme’s Existing 404 Page

The first thing you need to do is determine whether your theme contains a custom 404 page.

Open the theme editor (Appearance > Editor) from the Admin dashboard.

Look for the file named 404.php on the right side of the page.

The absence of 404.php means your theme lacks a custom 404 template, and you’ll need to add one (as explained further in this article).

Otherwise, just click on the existing file and edit it right in the WordPress dashboard.

Option 2: Creating a New WordPress 404 Page

There are two easy ways to create a 404.php file if your theme doesn’t include one:

1. Copy the 404.php from another theme and edit the page as described above.

2. Create 404.php by copying your theme’s index.php to your current theme. Remove the WordPress loop related parts and add the content that is relevant.

Option 3: Install a 404 Plugin

You might prefer working with a plugin if you don’t feel comfortable editing your theme’s PHP code. There are 404 plugins that will help you create an error page, and many are also able to track and record all page not found errors.

We suggest the following plugins:

Redirection is the most popular redirect manager for WordPress. With it you can easily manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have.

404 Solution converts your 404 traffic by providing your visitors with a better browsing experience and eliminate 404 errors on your site.

Colorlib 404 Customizer is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to create a custom and stylish 404 page quickly via the Live Customizer.

This amazing plugin offers you the possibility to edit and customize the 404 page so you can match it to your website’s design.

Best Practices for Your Custom 404 Page

Your 404 page should:

  • Have a design consistent with the rest of your site.
  • Offer helpful links to guide visitors back to relevant sections.
  • Include a search bar for easy navigation.
  • Be light on text but rich in usefulness.

Frequently Asked Questions About 404 Pages

What is a 404 error?

A 404 error appears when a server can’t find the page you requested.

How do I edit my theme’s existing 404 page?

Go to Appearance > Editor and look for a file named 404.php to edit.

Can I create a 404 page without coding?

Yes, you can use WordPress plugins like Redirection or Colorlib 404 Customizer.

How can I track 404 errors on my site?

Plugins like Redirection or 404 Solution can help you track and manage 404 errors.


By now, you should have a good grip on how to create a custom 404 page in WordPress.

Remember, a well-crafted 404 page not only soothes a visitor’s immediate frustration but can also turn them into a loyal user.

That’s a win-win, even if you wish that your visitors will never see this page!