Cashing In On 404 Traffic

A few years ago I got my first dedicated server. Up until then I had only ever used virtual hosting. I had the “why bother” attitude about a server. I didn’t want to put in the time and effort to learn how to use it. I liked having a hosting company that would just change things for me whenever I needed them. Then the costs of bandwidth started to drop and I soon found I would be spending less on hosting if I got a dedicated server. So my desire to save money caused a switch my laziness wouldn’t allow. The reason I tell this little story is because it shows that I can sometimes be lazy about things and shortly after getting a dedicated server I realized that same laziness was costing me money. Where that money was being lost was on my 404 traffic.

THEY’RE LOOKING FOR WHAT?

For those that don’t know, most servers are set up in a way that allows you to customize your error pages. Many people, including me, don’t bother to change these and leave them as the default which we have all seen. Once I got my dedicated server I started looking at my stats and I realized that if you added all my domains together I was getting around 100,000 people a month that were hitting my 404 page. I did some digging into my server logs to see why this was happening and I discovered something that surprised me a little. Some surfers will try to hunt around your domain for more free porn. For example, say you submit a gallery with the url www.domain.com/hotblondbabe/cute.html people will sometimes check to see what is at the root of that folder so they will type in www.domain.com/hotblondebabe/ if you have an index.html they will see that. If not, depending on how your server is setup they will see either the raw directory folders, get a forbidden message or get a 404 page. On some servers they may get some other type of error page. The surfers will then try www.domain.com and see what is there. They will even try typing in other folder names like www.domain.com/sexyblonde to see if anything is there. Much of the time these surfers will end up eventually getting a 404 page. This was news to me.

IF THEY WANT TO SNOOP, SELL THEM SOMETHING

So I did an experiment. My server admin section had a pretty good help document on how to customize my error pages so I played around with them for a little bit to come up with something I liked, uploaded it and gave it a couple of days to see how it worked. Much to my surprise the sponsor I was using on the 404 pages started getting some hits and even some sales! Interesting. So I played around a little bit more and tweaked it. The first page I had uploaded was just thrown together and wasn’t very good, this new page was much better and the results from it were also much better. If these guys were going to snoop around, I was going to try to sell them something and some of them were actually willing to buy.

There are a lot of uses for this traffic. Some people say it should be sent directly to a paysite. Others say using a full page ad works best. Some say advertise one site while others will say you should give them a choice of 10 different sites. Still others will say you should use the traffic to feed a tgp or link list that you may run. I tried almost all of these options and for me the best results came when I advertised something that I typically didn’t advertise in my galleries or sites. If I have a domain that primarily has galleries and sites on it that are teen babes, I will advertise a teen hardcore site. If I have a domain that has mostly blowjobs and oral stuff on it, I advertise some kind of other hardcore site. For me this is what ended up working best, you will need to experiment to get it right with your traffic. I suggest trying something out for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. It really depends on how much traffic your 404 gets. If you are getting a ton of hits to your 404 pages, then a couple of days are a good test. If you aren’t getting much traffic, give it more time. Switch things up and tweak your designs. For me I found that the fewer graphics I used the better. I wanted the page to load fast.

HOW DO I CUSTOMIZE ON MY SERVER/HOST?

If you are using virtual hosting you will want to contact your hosting company and ask them how to do this. They may need you to modify/upload an .htaccess file to your site. If you need to modify your .htaccess to redirect your error pages, here is a pretty simple one that should work:

E
rrorDocument 400 http://www.yourdomain.com/errors/400.html
ErrorDocument 401 http://www.yourdomain.com/errors/401.html
ErrorDocument 403 http://www.yourdomain.com/errors/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 http://www.yourdomain.com/errors/404.html
ErrorDocument 500 http://www.yourdomain.com/errors/500.html

Just modify the url for the location of your pages in your site. If you have a dedicated host there is probably a section in the help area of your server that will show you what to modify. For my server it was as simple as creating a file called 404.shtml, putting whatever I wanted in it and uploading it to my root directory for each domain. 

A couple quick words of advice: Don’t put a ton of pop-ups on the 404 pages. There have been tgps and link sites that have been known to blacklist domains that do this. If you make a honest mistake and a link on your site accidentally takes the surfer to your 404 pages, you don’t want a page they can never get back from. Also, don’t try to scare or trap the surfer. It may be tempting to put something up that scares them into buying a membership and it may actually work, but in the long run it could get your domain blacklisted by link sites and tgps and it could get you dropped from a sponsor. 

Use common sense, try some different styles of pages and make some extra cash. I’m not getting rich off the 404 traffic, but I make enough sales that it now pays for my hosting bill.

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