How to Utilize and Benefit from a Custom 404 Page
January 22, 2015
Photo courtesy of India7 Network
We live with 404 errors. They are that pesky neighbor that always shows up unexpected, and they will always keep coming and coming. It is always recommended to clear 404 site errors from your site when you find them, and more of them will appear, so what do you do? Ignore them? Sweep them under the rug? Or how about turning them into a prosperous opportunity!
Ok, so what do I do?
It is currently best practice to create an official 404 page on your site for whenever a user runs into them on your site. Google has offered some great advice as far as best practices for these page, and you can read more here.
I’m paraphrasing, but here are some of the highlights pulled from there:
- Tell visitors that the page they’re looking for can’t be found.
- Make sure that your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code.
- Be sure to feature a navigation pathway back to your site, like a homepage link, as this will prevent exits, drop-offs and can encourage higher conversions.
- Have the same look/feel of your site on your 404 page.
How can I do this?
Keeping the above guidelines in mind, there are many different ways that you can create a great 404 page that not only keeps the user experience in tact, but also adds new elements to enhance it. I will break down a couple of ideas for you.
- Add Some Personality to Your Site!
There are plenty of opportunities in the construction of a website where your business style, personality, and/or humor can truly shine. The 404 page is a great place for this. You can turn the unfortunate event of a page error into something that will put a smile on the user’s face. And remember, a happy consumer will practically already have their wallet out!
You can be artistic with your 404 page, like they did here:
Or you can be funny with your 404 page, like they did here:
Or you can be obvious and to the point, like they did here at Propeller:
Got it. What else should I do?
- Encourage More Site Engagement!
You can include features on the page that encourage a further action from the user. Examples of these are:
- A Search Box – This will give the user an opportunity to look for something specific on your site.
- Link to Homepage – when in doubt, send them home. This will reset the user experience and get the user to where they really want to be on your site.
- Link to Top Site Pages – You could include links to your homepage, your sitemap, or even include favorite or site pages in the attempt to encourage additional pageviews.
- Promote Yourself!
Are you trying to push the sale of blue widgets this month? Or trying to get rid of the overstocked fruitcake supply after the holidays? You can use this opportunity to feature promotional items, discounts and seasonal incentives on this page to encourage a purchase or conversion!
- Make it Your Own!
In conclusion, you can create a great 404 page for your website where both you and your business can truly shine. You can have a better user experience, gain more site traction, and even improve sales or conversions. That’s like having your cake, eating it, and then eating it again! Sound good? Now get to work on your own incredible 404 page!
Contributed by: Darryl Blank, SEO Account Manager at BrightHaus