There’s no bigger buzzkill than your online search coming to a halt. You were on a roll, finding everything you needed, and now you have to hit the back button and start over. But what if instead, that error message provided a little entertainment and also lead you to the content you were actually looking for? Well, that’s exactly what a custom 404 page does, and we’ll tell you why your website needs one.
What’s a 404 Page?
According to Google, a 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site. Maybe they’ve clicked on a broken link, mistyped a URL or that page has been deleted. Generic 404’s will say “Page Not Found,” generally leading users to hit back and retype, try their search again or give up all together. Obviously, users leaving your site is the last thing you want, so does that mean 404 pages are a bad thing? Not if you do them correctly.
Why are 404 pages better than a redirect?
The other alternative to a 404 page, a 302 redirect, will most likely say “this page is being temporarily redirected” and then send the user to a completely new page that is defined by the web designer (often a homepage). While it may sound helpful to send your user to an actual landing page of your site, in reality, it’s actually harming your online presence. Here’s why:
-Visitors may not realize they’re being rerouted and instead just end up on a page completely unrelated to their original search. Not only is this frustrating for the user, but it also irritates Google since it makes them look inept (also not good for you.)
-With a redirect, a 404 isn’t triggered, so there’s no direct way to know that links are broken without creating a custom report.
-If you’re using redirects site-wide, you could risk diminishing website rankings as a result of too many confusing “temporary” signals, and all traffic directed to the same page.
How can you create an effective 404 Page?
That’s where we come in! Not only can you customize your 404 page to be witty and fun, but you can also use it to boost your SEO. A generic 404 page won’t do either. Our designers can help design a clever, branded page that engages your visitors and incentivizes them to stay on your site longer. Then, instead of risking their quick exit as they head back to their original search, they’ll find several internal links that help navigate them to the appropriate pages on your site, so they don’t have to leave to find what they’re looking for.
By providing helpful content related to their search, they’re more likely to stay and browse. It will also reduce any pogo sticking that helps keep bounce rates low that looks great to SEO. You’ll increase your brand equity and introduce users to more aspects of your awesome company. A positive user experience + more brand engagement = a win, win.
With the right 404 page design, you can turn a negative into multiple positives. Check out some of the cool 404 pages we’ve created for our clients, and contact us to learn more about making this inevitable error page into a real asset for your brand!