A 404 page ( also known as ‘page not found’ or ‘error page’) is the page that appears when a user tries to navigate to a page that no longer exists due to a broken link or a page being deleted.
Why is it a bad thing?
A 404 error is bad sign and can have a negative impact on your websites SEO and also your conversion rates because it causes your website users browsing journey to suddenly stop – leaving them with no other option but to quit your site and look elsewhere.
How to minimise 404-page occurrence on your website
Most 404 pages occur due to broken links on your website. You can use Google Analytics to identify by looking at the URL’s that are navigating traffic to your 404 pages. Once you have identified the broken links you can then redirect them to working pages.
The same goes for removing pages from your website. Always remember that if you are removing a page from your website, that you must always set up a 301 redirect to fix them.
A great plugin you can use to make this process easier is Redirection which allows you to easily set up and manage redirects for redundant URL’s within your site. It also offers additional features such as tracking 404 errors that occur on your site so you can work on fixing them.
How to optimise your 404 page
You can practice the best link management and constantly track 404 errors on your site, but there will always be a chance that someone will land on a 404 page.
So, how do you optimise your 404 pages?
Brand it up
Make sure your 404 page appears to match the rest of your site and is branded like every other page you have. If your 404 page is unbranded it won’t look like it belongs to your website which will increase the chances of the user panicking and exiting hastily.
Make it light-hearted and apologise
Encountering a 404 page can be frustrating for visitors and can sometimes make them feel like they have done something wrong to cause the page to appear.
Provide them with a simple explanation and end with an apology. Keep the text to a minimum – you don’t want to overload the page with too much to read as they will likely end up abandoning.
Provide them with options, including a link back to your homepage
Include a links to popular pages on your website for people to head back to, without them having to search for it or start their journey from scratch.
Add a search bar
Including a search bar on your 404 pages will provide visitors with the opportunity to search for what they were originally looking for. This will keep users on your site for longer and reduce your bounce rate.
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