How to create a Custom 404 using Thesis

What’s the first thing you do when you see one of these?  If you’re like me you close the page and head back to Google and try again. 

404 Error Page

This is a really important opportunity for bloggers to gain a new reader, but you only have a few seconds to capture their attention.  So why not create a custom Page Not Found (404) and encourage them to stick around.

How to create a customized 404

Recently, I went to an SEO Academy organised by The Tots 100 and led by David from Distilled UK.  We spoke about 404 error pages.  They won’t hurt your site, but can affect your bounce rate (e.g. how quickly people leave).  404s can happen if you delete or move content around or if someone else incorrectly links to your blog.  If it’s an error on your behalf then you can always try and fix it.  If it’s an incoming link from another website/blog you can contact their webmaster and ask them to update the link or you can redirect them to your custom 404 page.  I will go into redirecting in more detail in another post as this is going to be a long one.

How to find the error pages

To find a list of your 404 errors, you will need to log into your Google Webmaster Tools > Your Blog>Health>Crawl Errors>

Crawl Errors

Click on the Not found Errors

Not Found

A list will appear at the bottom of the page.  Click on one of the links>Then linked from and it will show you where the link is coming from.

Webmaster Tools

How to Create The Customised 404 Error Page

I followed the following tutorial from Deborah Ager.  It was incredibly useful and this is where you should start as well.  However, there is a few things you should note.

  1. The plugin she refers to is no longer called Thesis Open Hook but is now Open Hook by Rick Beckman if you have trouble finding it.  I did!
  2. As the plug in has been updated, so have a few of the screens.  Below are screen shots of exactly how I set mine out.

a.) On the general tab select thesis

Open Hook Settings


b.)  Select thesis_hook_404_title from the drop down box


404 Title Open Hook


c.) Select thesis_hook_404_content from the drop down box


Paste your code in here


3.) Lastly, do not freak out if you can’t write code.  Neither can I, but I can copy and paste.  Always remember that you can use wordpress to set up your page, just like you’d normally set out a blog post in the normal Visual Tab adding text and images, aligning, formatting etc.  Just remember to save as a draft and not publish it.

How to write HTML Code

But then remember if you click on the Text Tab you will see all of the code.  Again, do not panic, just copy it.  Then head back over to the plug in settings and paste.

Writing HTML Code Using WordPress


So how did you get on??  Did it work.  Do let me know if I missed anything.

Now it’s time to redirect people to your fancy smancy new error page.

Choosing a Theme

No word of a lie, I wasted a good part of 3 days looking for a new theme for my blog.  I have the same problem when I go shopping; I have something in mind and never find exactly what I’m looking for.

I trolled the internet and  All I wanted was a customisable header and 3 columns (left and right sidebars).  I really didn’t think it would be that difficult.  I tried Vigilance, Mumrik, Vinica, Lysa, Atahualpa, JSo4w, Constructor, Blass and many more.  They all started off well but as soon as I wanted to do something simple like change the font, headers or column widths I became unstuck. I found I couldn’t get it exactly as I wanted, unless I had some knowledge of coding and cascading style sheets (css), which I don’t.

I really wouldn’t recommend messing about with the css unless you really know what you’re doing.  I did and I made a right mess of the template.  Luckily, I have a friend who managed to sort it out for me.

In the end, after speaking to @violetposy, I decided to purchase a theme!!!  Well, I persuaded my hubby to get it for me for Mother’s day.  I know it sounds insane to spend money on a Theme when there are so many free ones, but once I calculated the amount of time and stress it would save me it really wasn’t that expensive (£56).

The reason I like the Thesis theme is because of ease in which you can customise.  The options are endless and it doesn’t require knowledge of coding.  You can choose fonts; number of columns, where you want them and you can use a custom header. Here is an example of the design options.

When I purchased it I also noticed that they have an affiliates program so I thought what the hell.  I think it’s great and if I can earn a bit back why not.  So, if you decide to purchase the Thesis Theme from DIY themes, I would be most grateful if you used this link.

Other Posts in the Series

My Journey from WordPress,com to

Registering a Domain Name and Renting Server Space

Exporting Your Blog

Customising Your Header

Redirecting Traffic (TBA)

Plugins (TBA)

Technorati (TBA)