Last week I shared a checklist of the SEO tasks for new websites and one of the items on the list was to ensure that you have a custom 404 page when visitors come across an error on your website.
I wanted to expand on this a little more and share some tips on how to make a custom 404 error page that will ensure your visitors still stick around on your site.
Visitors can stumble on to a 404 page for many reasons including:
- The URL they are entering has been spelt incorrectly
- They have followed an old link to content that has been moved or deleted
- The link they are following has been truncated in an email message etc
When visitors land on these pages, it’s very likely that many of them may just leave because they can’t be bothered searching through your website to find the correct URL. To combat this, instead of returning a “File not found” error page, try creating a more useful 404 error page.
Every website is different but here are some suggestions of what kind of links/information to put on your 404 page:
- Links to popular pages
- Links to popular products
- Links to important company, customer service, or contact information
- Links to important FAQ’s
- Links for technical support or contact
- Don’t point the finger. Tell the visitor what went wrong but don’t tell them it is there fault. The phrases “might have” and “possibly” are good ones to use.
- Include a search bar. Visitors who land on your 404 page may know what they are looking for and it will be easier for them to simply type in a term that sort through your navigation.
If you’re not sure how or where to get stated with a custom 404 page, then I would suggest checking out the “Enhance 404 pages” section in Google Webmaster Tools. It’s a great resource for creating 404 pages that are going to make your visitors take further action of your site instead of disappearing altogether.
If you want to get creative with your 404 page, then I have included my favourite 404 pages below for some inspiration.