404 Pages – Quick Tips To Create Custom Error Pages
Let’s face it. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a web link and being led to that dreaded 404 error page message: page not found. Like it or not, having a well-done 404 page for your own site’s search engine visibility and usability is extremely valuable.
If we had our way, there would be no need for 404 pages in the first place. But the reality is that technical maintenance and updates that interrupt user connection are inevitable. So you need to be proactive about mitigating any disruptions while managing the backend of your website.
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What Are 404 Error Pages?
Simply put, 404 pages are error pages, and they pop up when a URL that a user is trying to access doesn’t exist or can’t be found. A 404 error code alerts search engines and users of this problem. By nature, web pages change or content is modified on a continual basis, so it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
In this article, we’ll discuss the ‘404 not found’ error code, even though many other variations exist. Here are some of the most common reasons a user may encounter a 404 page:
- The server is down
- The content was removed and the page no longer exists
- A web page moved without being redirected
- It’s a broken link
- The user typed in the wrong URL.
Custom 404 Error Pages – Why Are They Important?
As the famous saying goes – “by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”
You’re going to have errors on your website. It’s simply unavoidable. But, there are ways to turn a negative (and potentially detrimental) user experience into a more positive one when they encounter a dead end. That’s where a customised 404 page comes into play. When properly optimised, a 404 error page can actually increase your search visibility as well. It’s a win-win.
By preparing for when things go wrong (and they will), you can prevent users from completely abandoning your website if you prepare a friendly, informative error page to guide them. Also, without a 404 response code, you won’t know that there’s an issue with the page and the problem won’t be fixed.
A well-planned 404 page benefit your website because it:
- Reduces the bounce rate and helps keep users on your website
- Maintains brand consistency with custom 404 page messaging
- Mitigates user’s negative feelings and dissatisfaction
- Links to other areas of your website, thereby increasing conversion.
Strategies For Creating Customised Error Pages
When it comes to creating your 404 pages, a custom design achieves more favorable results than standard error pages, which look and feel jolting.
The smartest approach is to treat error pages the same way you would any other page of your website. This means staying on brand, keeping the user flow seamless, and providing favorable solutions.
Let’s use Tourism Australia’s 404 page above as a brilliant example.
First off, it’s a beautiful page! The photo is relaxing and appealing and curbs any angst the user may feel upon encountering a dead end.
Second, the on-page message is apologetic and straightforward. It offers two clear options for what the user can do next that gently guides the user along and, most importantly, keeps them on the site.
Lastly, all of the 404 page elements are on-brand. The font style, colors, and tone are in line with the rest of Tourism Australia’s branding, so reaching this page doesn’t feel like a jolting disconnect. It simply feels like a detour that will eventually lead the user back on track.
Remember this mindset when customising an error page—use them to your advantage to keep the web user experience running smoothly. By doing so, you’ll get a better response from Google and from users who will be more likely to continue browsing within your website.
Top Error Page Tips
Some best practices to create a custom error page include:
- Provide user solutions that will keep them on your site, such as links to the home page or other popular pages that could lead to a sale or conversion.
- Keeping your brand theme consistent when designing your custom 404 page. An error page shouldn’t look completely out of place and potentially confuse the user.
- Replacing default 404 messages with a message that’s straightforward and easy to understand. Using empathetic or apologetic language like “Sorry, we can’t find what you’re looking for” is a much more pleasant approach.
- Optimising your 404 page for SEO. Again, remember to treat your error page as you would the rest of our site. This includes adding internal links and applying the same SEO rules.
- Adding humour or wit goes a long way. Whether it’s a clever pun, a meme or a branded graphic, users tend to respond better when the mood is kept light and humorous.
How An SEO Agency Can Help With Website Errors
If you’re in charge of a website and are concerned about pages that are showing errors and about how to fix them, First Page Australia can certainly help.
As search engine optimisation specialists we can help by doing the following:
- Crawl your website to identify all the 404 error pages
- Evaluate if any error pages have SEO value and restore or redirect as needed
- Configure rules that will help manage future 404 errors, and determine what’s best for the campaign concerning any existing crawl issues.
If you’d like more information about setting up a 404 page strategy, or any other SEO-related issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us.