Did you know that you can customize your 404 Error pages? Did you know it’s a really good idea to customize your 404 error pages? Customizing a 404 error page is a great way to prevent a lost click, a lost visitor and a lost sale or conversion.
First off, what is 404 error page? Let’s say you’ve updated your website and all your URLs have changed. Natural, or organic listings can take awhile to catch up, and someone could click an old listing and land on a 404 error page. Same with bookmarks. Unless you’ve taken the time to automatically redirect every old URL on your site to your new pages, that visitor is going to land on a 404 error page. Another way to land on the 404 page is if someone misspelled a page of your site, or forgot the “L” at the end of the “.html.”
Now here’s why creating your own custom 404 error page is a good thing: The standard 404 error page is pretty generic, it really doesn’t explain what a 404 error is and every server displays different error text. It can also be pretty confusing for a visitor. After all, the page they get is not what they are expecting. They could just leave, and you don’t want them to do that after they took the time to visit you. Custom 404 errors are good customer service. Think of it as one more way of being extra helpful and friendly.
So, here’s what to include on your new custom 404 error page:
- First, apologize. It might not be your fault, but that’s okay. Just say you’re sorry, but the page they are looking for doesn’t seem to exist.
- Give them reasons why it might not exist. Maybe they spelled a word in the URL wrong. Maybe all your pages end in HTML, and they missed the “L” on the end.
- Give them a few links of where they could go, like Home, About, Products, or maybe the top five pages on your site.
- Include a search box. But a search box should be the last resort, not the only option.
- Brand it as your site, without overwhelming them. This page should be simple without every choice possible.
Another school of thought is sending 404 errors to the home page (and before you give me a hard time, yes, I know the JumpFly website 404 error page goes to the home page. I’m not in charge of our site. And this Blog is just a matter of my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners of JumpFly.
I’m not going to go into the mechanics of HOW to create your 404 page. There are a couple of good sites out there that explain how – here’s two that I think are decent resources:
- www.plinko.net/404/custom.asp: explains the mechanics of how to create a custom 404 page based on the server your site is hosted on
- www.404errorpages.com: much more technical on what exactly a 404 error is.