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Stacy Ketikuby Stacy Ketiku on Stacy Ketiku on Feb 17, 2021

Five All-Time Best Practices for Error 404-Page Creation.

It will be such a shock if you say you haven’t come across one of these error 404-pages while you navigate one website or another. Just in case you didn’t recognise them let’s help you out. An error 404-page is an HTTP status code that notifies users of a website that the page they are searching for or desire to see is not available or can’t be found. This happens for various reasons which we will discuss as we proceed. 

When your website users encounter this kind of roadblock, an error 404-page is a great way to ensure they do not just exit your site immediately but provides them with reasons for the issue and what they can do next. In other words, not setting up this error page properly on your website can adversely affect your Search Engine Optimisation effort by reducing users dwell time and increasing your bounce rate. Also, if a user has a bad experience while using your website there’s a very high possibility that they won’t come around in the future. What does that mean for you? It simply means that you’ll be missing out on traffic that you can convert at some point in the buyer journey.

sample of Big Field Digital's error 404 page
Error 404-page on bigfielddigital.com

Follow our all-time best practices for error 404-page creation and you’ll never go wrong when providing your users with a soothing experience on your website 

Give Reasons for Displaying the 404-Error Page 

How would you feel if you walk into a concert with no entry restrictions but the security crew stops you at the entrance for no specific reason? It leaves you wondering whether you have a problem they see but you can’t, if the hall is already full, or some other reasons you can’t think of. This is the same way a website user feels when they can’t access a website and don’t know why that is happening. They don’t know if the problem has to do with their internet connection, the spelling of the website, or other factors.

You can never go wrong with this best practice for error 404-page creation, and it’s effortless to implement. Make a list of possible reasons this error page is showing up. Some of those reasons could include: the content of the page has been removed without redirecting the link properly, a link is broken, the URL doesn’t exist at all, the URL is misspelt, there is a copy and paste error, etc. While trying to explain this, bear in mind that visitors on your website are of various educational levels. Therefore, use simple languages they can easily understand. Put away all the technical jargon; they don’t appreciate it.

Prioritise the Progress of Your User

No one wants to be stuck somewhere without seeing a pathway to help them make progress. Your website users will get off your site if the page they desire to view is unavailable and can’t find an alternative to explore. A best practise for error 404-page creation is to include links to other important pages on your website. Having at least 4 of those links is ideal. However, do not congest this page with several options that will confuse your users. Some of the best pages to put out there is your home page, about us page, products/services page, and your site map. Feel free to substitute any of these pages with whichever is a priority to you. Better still, put out links to pages that have the capacity to keep users on your site for longer periods and even convert them.

Find and Fix Broken Links in SEO

If you do your homework properly the 404 error page won’t need to show up frequently on your website. This homework involves you doing a frequent audit of your website to find and fix similar issues like this. With several SEO tools available online (yes, for free), spotting out the pages with broken links won’t be a big deal. Our favourite tool is SemRush. Some other options you can check out include Uber Suggest, Screaming Frog, Ahref, Moz, etc. Additionally, you can use Google Search Console to find your broken links. Simply scan through the menu on the left-hand side then click on Coverage. There you will find links that you need fix else they’ll keep showing 404 error to your users. Users will respect you more when they realise the error they encountered is as a result of them spelling things wrongly rather than it being your fault.

Decide If You Need a Redirect or Error 404-Page

In some cases, you need to decide if you should completely take down a web page or redirect the link to another page on your website. Redirecting a URL automatically takes a searcher from the URL they’ve inputted in the search bar to the new page that houses that content.

Show Off Your Branding and Creativity

The most attractive error 404-pages are those that are visually appealing, creatively put together and includes some elements of the brand. You really shouldn’t put up a boring error 404-page with just black text on a plain white space. That’s won’t cut it. Feel free to include some form of humour when creating this page. In fact, let a Copywriter come up with something for you. But before you hire one, there are some vital questions to ask them.

When all is done, remember that the goal is to achieve a great user experience and reduce the bounce rate on your website. Did you find this article helpful? If you did, don’t hesitate to leave us a five-star rating before you run off. You can also help someone by sharing this post with your community of business owners who have websites.

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