You have probably, in the course of your website browsing, come across broken links and been presented with an error page, often with an error code 404 displayed for good measure. The purpose of the page is to offer a friendly/helpful indication that the page has not been found and to offer a way of getting back to the original website or a further opportunity to find the missing information.
Here are some suggestions as to how you can make the most of this situation:
1. An ounce of prevention…
Of course in the ideal world websites shouldn’t have any erroneous or broken links. There are link checkers that you can run to find broken links (e.g. http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/broken-links.php – I’m sure you can find plenty of others too). It is worth periodically checking your website’s links.
2. Create a friendly error message
An undiluted “error 404, page not found” is rather terse and robotic. It lacks the human element and you do remember that you are trying to communicate with humans, don’t you? I suggest using words that are suggestive of an apologetic, sympathetic and helpful tone. You could even use some humour too. Here are some useful examples:
3. Suggest where to go next
Your error page should try to be helpful and at least offer a link to allow your visitor to return to the home page or perhaps the previous page.
Better still is to also offer a search facility so that your visitor has another opportunity to search for their desired information.
4. Take the opportunity to upsell your featured pages or posts
The 404 error page is a great opportunity to offer links to some very specific parts of the website, perhaps your latest blog or a special offer or a contact page… So you can add some targeted links to help your business grow!
5. It’s SEO friendly
You do get SEO brownie points from Google for having a custom 404 error page active on your website. This is what Google has to say about the 404 error page: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93641
So be customer friendly and don’t miss out on the opportunities offered by your website’s error page!