A well overlooked part of a website is the 404 Page Not Found page. Because this page usually is a simple page that states that the page you are looking for does not exists on this server, a lot of people forget about it. In this article I want to show you and tell you that not customizing your 404 Error page costs you money.
What is a 404 page
A 404 error is an HTTP status code that means that the page you were trying to reach on a website couldn’t be found on your server. The reason for this is that there may be a link on your site that was wrong or the page might have been recently (re)moved from the site. As there is no web page to display, the web server sends a page that simply says “404 Page not found”.
You probably have seen this before:
How You Can Prevent 404 Pages from Showing
Here are a few things you can do to prevent 404 pages from showing on your website
- Check for Broken Links. Make sure you check your website on a regular basis on broken internal links. A lot of smart people link internal from one page to another witch is good for the SEO rankings. If you change/update an existing page and you change the permalink good chance that the link from other posts are being broken. If you are using WordPress like me you can use a plugin called:
Broken Link Checker.
- Redirect When Moving A Page. If you need to move a page keep the existing permalink and let your visitors know that the page was moved to another location. You can also use a redirect so your visitors will be automatically be moved to the new location of the page. You can create a redirect in your hosting dashboard or use a WordPress plugin called:
Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin.
- Don’t Delete Pages. If you need to remove a page from your website just don’t delete the file completely, but edit the page, delete the content and tell your visitors that this article is removed and present links to a few other posts that they might be interested in.
- Links From Other Websites. If your posts are well read than you probably have other people linking to your posts. When you move or delete a page from your website and you didn’t redirect the old permalink your visitors will get a 404 page. By applying point 2 and 3 the visitors from outside will automatically be redirected to the new page, but if you didn’t they will get a 404 error page. Most of the time you can find out where the link is coming from and contact the administrator of that website to change the url to your post. They will be happy to do that, because it means they also have a broken link on their website. Tip: If that happens you can always send them to this article to help them out 😉
No matter how careful we are on preventing dead links to appear on our website, nobody is perfect and a visitor can also just type in the wrong url. Sooner or later somebody will get a 404 page error on your website.
So Why Should You Customize Your 404 Error Page
Simple reason. Imagine you go to a website and you see this:
When you land on a page like the one above great chance you will just hit the X button or the back button to look for the information on another page. Bye Bye visitor, Bye Bye potential subscriber, Bye Bye potential customer, Bye Bye potential income. That is the reason for you to edit your 404 error page to keep these visitors on your website and try to keep them there.
How to Keep Your 404 Visitors on Your Website?
Some WordPress Themes already have a customized 404 error page. They are pretty basic like a search form or a sitemap. That is already better than just a “We couldn’t find what you were looking for” sentence.
So here are a few ideas you can apply on your 404 page so your visitors will STAY on your website instead of looking for the information on somebody else s. I will skip the search form and sitemap, because they are pretty basic.
Don’t blame them, blame yourself
Nobody likes to be blamed, especially if it wasn’t you who is to blame.
Sentences like “Oops, you messed up!” or “It seems like you entered a wrong url” are BIG FAT no no’s.
Try to blame yourself and use a little humor. This will attract the attention of the visitor. Here is one I like:
Oops, I can’t find the page you are looking for
Although I try very hard to make my page work flawless it looks like you still found an error. I guess nobody is perfect. Not even me! Please let me help you try to find what you are looking for.
“Oops, I can’t find the page you are looking for. Although I try very hard to make my page work flawless it looks like you still found an error. I guess nobody is perfect. Not even me! Please let me help you try to find what you are looking for.”
Add Them To Your Mailing List
This is a bit tricky but definitely worth it. Make sure you have something to give them.
Here are some examples:
E-commerce website: Create a discount coupon in your E-commerce store and put it in an auto responder message. As soon as the signup is confirmed, they will get a coupon in their mailbox and you have a new subscriber to your mailing list. Now add something like this to your 404 error page:
We are sorry for our mistake in leading you to the wrong page. To make it up to you we would like to offer you a 10% – 15% – 20% (choose) discount on your next purchase. Please leave email in the form below and click on “Apology Accepted” button.
Add a signup form here
I think you get the picture.
Add Some Affiliate links
You could add some relevant affiliate links to your 404 error page. This way you have the option to make some money on your 404 visitors.
Give your visitor the option to choose other pages or post to look at. Create a section with your latest post, list of pages, most viewed posts and other relevant information they could be interested in.
Off course you can combine the options and put in some creativity.
If appropriate to your website use humor to attract the attention of your visitor and make them curious about your website. Here is one that I came across that I really like!
In this article I have shown you what a 404 error page is, how to prevent 404 error pages from showing up and how not customizing your 404 error page costs you visitors, potential customers, potential subscribers and potential income. I also gave you a few ideas of what you can add to your 404 error page to keep these visitors on your website. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Do you want to know how to customize your WordPress 404 error page without having to use PHP? Read my WordPress Tutorial How To Customize Your WordPress 404 Page the Easy Way
BE CREATIVE! Share me your ideas about a creative 404 error page? Please leave a comment and if you find this post useful please share it below. I would appreciate it!