Wonders You Can Do With The 404 Pages On Your Website
Seeing a 404 page is more like a blockage in the regular flow of action on the website. When users encounter a 404 page, they feel a bit of shock, surprise, and disappointment, thinking what is wrong now!
It’s a mixed feeling coming out as a sense of being dumped by the site. Even worse, when these 404 pages are clueless and don’t even explain what just happened or what to do next.
A typical 404 page would look like this:
Doesn’t it seem like something really bad has happened and the world is going to collapse now? Just a simple message saying it’s a 404 error and the page is not found. That’s it. What in this world will a user do after reading this message? It’s simple. Move the cursor to top right corner and close the window.
Google doesn’t like the excessive 404s on your site
Let’s face the truth, no website is perfectly crafted. There will always be some errors and dead ends breaking the flow. It depends on how you handle the situation and most prevalent errors so that they don’t break your site and it continues to work with the regular flow.
Further more, search engines really don’t understand the situations when 404s arise on a request. Whether it is through internal error, or just the user typing the wrong URL, search engines will always look at these pages with a fishy look. And that’s not good for your website SEO.
How can you handle the 404s?
You can handle like every other website does. Redirect the user to something of value. You can permanently redirect (301 redirects) all the 404 pages to another URL specially created to guide the users.
After doing this redirection, you will have a great deal in SEO. How? The 404 URL will be redirected to an actually existing page. This simply means, now the server will not send the 404 error HTTP status response code to the search engines or browsers. It will be a successful 200 OK code as there is a page to serve the request.
Caution: You can redirect 404 pages to a custom page, but that does not mean the page should not reveal that it’s a 404 error. Make your custom page to inform regarding the encountered 404 error by writing the information on it. This is how Knowband uses its custom page to inform the user regarding the 404 error.
What else can you do with your custom 404 page?
You can stop a bounce back
The most prevalent action by the user after encountering a 404 is to exit the site. With so many bounce backs due to an almost uncontrollable error, your conversion rates are going to touch the ground. Of course, you don’t want this.
To prevent the bounce backs from the 404 pages you need to keep these points in your mind while designing the custom 404 page:
- Tell what’s going on. Provide enough information on the page to let the users know that your site is not broken, just, maybe, the page has been moved.
- Offer an exit from the page. Tell them what next to do. While offering an exit you must ensure that you are taking the customer to a valuable resource with certain chances of engagement. Mostly the website gives an option to go the homepage, but you can use your creative ideas and give other options for engagement too.
- Don’t make the page any complex. Keep it simple, with simple words that are easy to understand. You don’t want only Shakespeare to read your content on the page.
Here is an example of how brilliantly these websites have designed their 404 pages to prevent the bounce back.
Yelp maintains a great blend of humor and branding on the 404 page. It utilizes the page to get the users into the main course of action by providing its core functionality on the error page- Finding a business near a place. The site does not lose its core flow even on a 404 page.
MailChimp has done a similar implementation like Yelp on its 404 page. It provides a website search option to the users or they can simply use the top navigation bar to go to the desired page.
Email center goes a real step ahead and leverages the page to engage with the users and also impart a sense of confidence. It uses humorous approach by showing it’s developers’ images on the page. An interaction is established before the user if finally requested to return to the homepage.
You can induce a conversion
Not just for engagement and interaction, a 404 page can be effectively used to guide the user to your conversion funnel. You can link the page to your best selling pages. Now, it depends on how beautifully you have crafted your page to convince the user to click on a sales pages links.
This is how Myntra tries to bring the user to the sales pages by giving an option to make a website search. Moreover, it makes the job easy by suggesting the popular search terms already hyperlinked. The user just needs to click on a popular search suggestion and it will take him to a listing page.
eHarmony uses the 404 page to call up the user for a sign-up. The last thing you want to encounter when you’re looking for love is a 404 love not found error. However, eHarmony with its 404 page softens the pain with this nice design and a suggestion to sign up for its dating service.
Over to You
The creative uses of 404 pages have induced a feeling that conversion optimization is not just limited to your regular website flow, even the error pages can give you a great opportunity. We saw how we can use the 404 pages in unthinkable ways. There was a time where you have been thinking about minimizing the damages due to 404 errors, and now, even these pages can bring conversions.
What creative idea do you have for your custom 404 page? A/B test your idea today and implement an interesting 404 page. There is nothing bad in leveraging every minute opportunity of engaging your users and making a sale. It’s an easy way from a headache (from 404 error) to conversion.