We’ve all encountered the dreaded 404 error message on a website. You were looking forward to visiting a webpage when suddenly you find out it no longer exists or never did. 404 errors may be inevitable, but there are steps you can take make this experience less frustrating for your website visitors.
Google defines an error page as what a user sees when they’re trying to navigate to a specific webpage that is non-existent. It’s usually seen as a negative thing when a webpage can’t be found, even though it isn’t always the fault of the website owner. It could be as simple as typing in the wrong URL. But, too many webmasters don’t take advantage of all the ways they can optimize the error page to boost their SEO and move visitors down the conversion funnel.
Because you want to be able to provide the best user experience – no matter what part of your website people are on – it’s essential to enhance your error page. The goal is to dissuade users from clicking the back button as soon as they’re hit with the 404 message. If you can do that, you’ll be able to redirect them to more content, boosting your traffic and engagement rate.
Here’s how you can modify your 404 error page to create a better experience for your website visitors and increase your SEO.
Design a visually appealing webpage
Who likes looking at a boring 404 webpage when they’re looking for specific content? Absolutely no one. Not only does it provide a negative user experience, but it also fails to accurately represent your brand and generate leads.
Use visually appealing imagery to create a 404 page that represents your brand. Use the same color scheme, typography, and other components that match the rest of your website so users aren’t confused. This won’t directly affect your SEO, but it will encourage users not to exit out the second they’re hit with an error message. It may even convince them to keep browsing, which will increase user engagement.
If you don’t tell visitors what to do after they’ve encountered the error, they’ll likely exit out and go somewhere else. Users don’t want to guess what they should do next after they can’t find the webpage they’re looking for, so it’s up to you to lead them in the right direction.
Add call to action buttons (CTAs) that lead to popular blog posts, your contact page, homepage or other content that you think is useful to your target audience. This will encourage users to check out other content instead of exiting out of your website. The longer they browse, the further down the sales funnel they’ll go, which brings you one step closer to a conversion.
Add a search bar
When users encounter a 404 error, they’re looking for a specific webpage. You can help them find what they’re looking for and increase user engagement by adding a search bar to your error page.
Placing this feature on your 404 page makes it easy for visitors to look up the topic they were interested in without having to go back to the homepage, contact you or simply exit out of your website altogether. This could greatly reduce your bounce rate so that your Google ranking isn’t negatively affected.
Explain the error
It’s always frustrating trying to navigate a website or webpage only to find that it doesn’t exist. The best way to keep users happy is to keep them informed. The more they know about why the error happened, the more in the loop they’ll feel, and this will encourage them to continue browsing your site.
Of course, you can’t always know why a particular user is encountering trouble, but you can include a list of possible reasons why an error may have occurred, such as the webpage being moved or deleted, the URL typed incorrectly or a broken link.