The end of the road
Losing direction is not pleasant for anyone, and it’s doubly not nice for you if you have invested resources into getting a potential customer to your website and they end up at a digital dead end – it can be a scary place, and no one wants to see it. This is where a customized 404 page can help.
Are your customers getting 404 errors on your website?
You would have spent a lot of time making sure your website is user-friendly, and the navigation is not broken and follows a meaningful path, but it’s common to never talk 404 as we don’t want to think of things being broken before we start. If a link is broken or a page is removed, your web server will show 404 HTTP status codes.
In such cases, a user (we have all seen them) gets one of these standard messages:
- 404 Not Found
- 404 Error
- HTTP 404 Not Found
- The page cannot be found
- The requested URL was not found on this server
For the potential customer, it leaves them hanging… and often moving away from your site – which means losing dollars in some form.
What is the deal with 404 errors?
Let’s talk about what happens
One day you decide, heh, we are not selling that dog treat anymore; let’s wipe that page; it won’t hurt anything. A day later, Joey comes along to find that dog treat or clicks on a link (which you forgot to remove or redirect); that link takes them to a dark hole of nothingness…. Statistics state that 70%+ of users who reach your site and get a 404 error will leave your website and not return <gulp>. So there is a high chance that Joey will say, “Oh, I can’t be bothered with this,” and shop elsewhere. No one wants Joey to leave; Joey wanted to shop; you wanted Joey to shop…. but trust got broken along the way.
Have you checked what your user sees now if they have a wrong URL on your site ?
Test it; it’s easy, type in your url.com/ add on to the end of it whatever word that wouldn’t be on a link on your website. Try url.com/reddog <- I bet that’s not there.
What do you see? Is it a customized page, or do you get a dreaded 404 status code error?
What causes 404 errors
Broken inbound links
- You have a link on your home page to ‘Dog Training’ – the link looks like this https://url.com/dogstraining, the page that URL is supposed to be directed to is https://url.com/dogtraining; you are human; you made a typo in your hyperlink. So the link on the home page goes to the 404 error page when someone clicks on it.
- The user thinks they remembered the URL from last time, and it’s wrong; let’s face it, it’s not always your fault!
- The user tries to access content on your website that is hidden
- This is so common. You have deleted a page, and someone is trying to access it via saved bookmarks or following a link from another website. You should always redirect these pages; that’s another topic for later.
- You added some of your pages to other websites; your URL has changed at some point, and you still need to update the referring site.
A 404 error is a client-side error because the client (your web browser) is considered to be asking for a resource (the URL you clicked or entered) that does not exist or cannot be found. So now you know, go check yours
Manage what you can measure
You cannot easily track the user’s actions when a server throws a 404 status code. However, it is easy to have tracking analytics on your custom 404 pages, so you can still retain user behaviour information.
So think of this as a scenario
Joey has the link to url.com/megaeggdogtoy; he clicks on it, and it goes nowhere, which frustrates him. If you have configured analytics on your customized 404 page, you can see Joey landing on it and leaving – or navigating to purchase something else. Joey’s behaviour helps you understand what the user wants and needs – valuable information, let’s call it, golden.
Let’s talk about it
Default server 404 error pages have a terrible user experience, so it’s always best to custom-design the 404 error page to be user-friendly and explain why the content requested isn’t available. We do this as standard on all our websites. The new 404 page should help users continue their travels within the website and find a suitable substitute – a better dog treat than before!
It’s all about users, after all, aka user experience
We want to create a great user experience, and having a custom 404 takes them from, oh no, this site is broken – which also breaks confidence, to ohhh, there is a minor issue that they know about and are helping me move to somewhere better.
Keep Users On Your Site
If users reach a dead end on a default error page, they leave the website and search for something else. But with a custom 404 error page, you can give users a clear path to a new destination on your website, keeping them on your site for longer.
What should be on your 404 page?
We love a funny 404 page; it amuses the user, but that rule only works for some sites. Some brands want to avoid being seen as having a sense of humour, and their 404 pages should be about getting the user quickly to where they need to go.
Whichever way you go, a good 404 page should/could have these features:
- A clear statement that the page the user requested isn’t available
- Advice to help your users correct a possible mistake in the URL, i.e. are you looking for dog treats? <link to dog treats>
- A place to report what happened before the page broke, i.e. email me to let me know how you got here; we would love to make it happen for you.
- The main header and footer navigations
- Links to important sections of the website
- A search bar for the website’s internal search function – good for e-commerce.
- It doesn’t have to have the actual word ‘404’ on the page; did you know what 404 meant before you read this? Yeah, your user can keep that information out of their head, too. Consider your 404 as the dead-end trail for a broken navigation link – you, the holder of the golden keys, are here to fix that.
- A Call to action – maybe even a discount code!
Or there is the belief to keep it bared-boned and tell the user why they have landed there. Throw in a small handful of key links.
Design.. well, that’s all up to you; make sure it fits the rest of your brand look and feel. The customized 404 page is to rebuild the relationship and say, ‘it’s me, it’s not you, let’s try again.
Mailchimp has an interactive 404 page, I got there and played the game a couple of times then shared the page with ours = interaction, don’t we all want that on our website?
We Feed Raw
We Feed Raw have an awesome page that is brand aligned, and sharing a awesome discount code – why not give back to the user that wants to spend money with you!.
Pantone well if you know you know……
airbnb make good use of sending the user back to where they want to them to go – links are valuable, use them wisely. Also arent we all sad when we drop our ice creams!
At this point, you should understand what a 404 error is, and why it’s important to have an eye-catching and functional one to ensure visitors don’t lose their way and panic at a broken link on your website.
Doing so ensures that your website visitors won’t come across a dead end – instead, they will know exactly who to contact to get back on track. So take the time to craft yours today – make it useful, novel, and helpful! Don’t forget – welcome your visitors to the right place with a customized 404 page!
Make sure every click lands in the right spot: to personalize your website, chat with us today.
Choose a marketing partner local to your business.
I have no hesitation in recommending Christina at RedDog.
I have been very impressed with Christina’s marketing skills and her commitment to on going study. she is very hardworking, conscientious and client focussed.
Christina is very creative with great analytical skills, creating and enlarging on ideas and concepts easily and quickly.
I have never been disappointed with the ideas overviews advice and outcomes Christina has provided.
Christina’s innovative and often quirky input to my digital advertising catches the eye and provokes interest and comments.
Christina is pragmatic and professional but her personality and great sense of humour makes working with her great fun.
We have four core services:
- Digital marketing services to animal advocates and to animal – allied businesses
- Web design and development
- Local digital marketing services
- Business and marketing strategy
Work With Us
Let’s get in touch to understand your project, and discuss the next steps