Most people don’t give a second glance at their 404 page but we feel it can be a page you could utilize to your advantage.
A 404 page, if you aren’t familiar, is the error page that people land on when they try to access a page that doesn’t exist on your website. Here’s an example of what ours looks like:
While you don’t want people landing on your 404 page, it’s bound to happen. People can land on a 404 page because of dead links, or it could be because they typed in a URL incorrectly but either way people are bound to land on your 404 page every once in awhile.
The good news is, your 404 page doesn’t have to be boring. It can be a page that directs your visitors to a better location, keeping them on your website for longer (which is what we all want, right?!), and potentially make a sale.
In today’s post, we feature ways to make the most of your 404 page. Enjoy!
Making The Most Of Your 404 Page
Tell the visitor what happened
First things first, we need to tell the visitor what happened once they land on a page that doesn’t exist so there isn’t confusion.
Explicitly state that the page doesn’t exist, but be friendly about it. We suggest speaking in plain language, in case people aren’t aware of the term “404 page.”
As you can see above in ours, we explain that they landed on a page that doesn’t exist and lists the reasons why they could have landed on the page.
Make it match your brand
Sometimes 404 pages can look boring and stuffy since many people don’t pay any attention to them.
Have your 404 page match your brand, just like you would any other page on your site. If your brand is known to be playful and fun, make your 404 page reflect that.
Make the page unique to your brand so it leaves visitors feeling not as discouraged landing on an error page.
This example from South West Trains is a great example of an on brand 404 page. Isn’t this a perfect 404 page for a train station?!
Related post: Understanding CSS For Beginners
Give a call to action
Here’s where we can really make a difference: giving a targeted call-to-action.
There are numerous call to actions you can list, so you will need to think about what makes the most sense for your brand. Examples of CTAs you could feature are:
– Sign up for your email newsletter
– Follow you on social media
– Top blog posts
– Most popular pages
– Feature a way that people can report a broken link
– Link to your shop
Our favorites include email newsletter sign-up, popular pages, and linking to our shop.
The purpose of giving a call to action is to make sure they stay on your website so they can find what they were looking for. If your goal is to increase your social media followers, then it makes sense to lead your visitors there, however that means they are leaving your website and may not come back.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Make the most of your 404 page with these tips from @Bluchic!” quote=”Make the most of your 404 page with these tips from @Bluchic!”]
Make sure it’s not being indexed by Google
This step may be missed by many of you out there, but it’s a very important piece to consider.
While the point of this post is to show how to make the most of your 404 page, you still don’t want it to appear in search results (we don’t want more people landing on this page than need be, right?).
This means you will need to make sure your 404 page is not being indexed by Google or any other search engine.
To do this, you will need to make sure your web server returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested. Ensuring that the 404 status code is being sent to search engines tells search engines “hey, don’t index this page, it doesn’t actually exist!”
You can learn more about updating your status code by checking out this article.
Other features to have on your 404 page
Other features you can list on your 404 page (and we have some of these on ours!) include:
– Search bar
– Contact information (email address, phone number, etc)
– Link to your homepage
You shouldn’t overwhelm your visitors with a million options (otherwise they may not pick one!) so consider what makes the most sense for your brand and business.
Related post: 5 Things To Think About Before Doing A Website Redesign
Fixing your broken pages
Even though we’re making your 404 page look snazzy and exciting, we still want to minimize the amount of broken pages on your site.
Check out these WordPress plugins and tools to help you keep up-to-date on the broken links on your site:
– Broken Link Checker
– Broken Link Manager
– Google Webmaster Tools
– W3C Checker
Now that we’ve covered how to make the most of your 404 page, you should be prepared to go out and create one that fits perfectly with your business. You may be wondering “how do I change my 404 page?!”
If you have a Bluchic theme, you can edit your 404 text by going to Appearance >> Theme Options >> 404 Page Settings. If you desire a customized 404 page, you can try using a plugin like Forty Four.