May 18, 2016 debbie.m

Not Found? 404 Error Pages

What is a 404 (Not Found) Error page?

A 404 Error Page is essentially a non-existent page that returns a status code of 404. The 404 error is generated whenever a server can’t find the specified page.

 

How do 404 errors occur?

A 404 page can happen for a number of reasons. These reasons fall into two buckets: user errors or website glitches. Either way, an informative 404 page is the most effective solution.

A web server will typically generate a 404 Not Found web page when a user misspells a URL or attempts to follow a broken or dead link. 404 errors also occur when pages have been moved or deleted, the page has expired, or the page was blocked.

To find broken links on your site, check out Google Webmaster Tools (Crawl and Fetch). Here, you can find tools that can scan your entire website for 404 Error pages.

 

Why are 404 Error pages important?

One of the biggest mistakes you could make when you launch a new website is ignoring all of the links, pages, and content from your old website. If Google has Site Links indexed and listed for a website and the navigation menu changes, Google considers these to be broken links. Google will then remove the links and lower the overall ranking of your website in its Search Engine. Any links to your site from other blogs or directories will also break, and you can expect your site to take the hit.

To avoid the headache, make sure to use error pages! Adding 301 Redirects and 404 Error pages can ensure that you don’t lose business because of an upgrade to your site. A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link ranking value to the new page. This is the perhaps the best way to retain online marketing efforts from old websites. If you have redesigned, added or removed content from your site, a custom 404 Error page is essential to direct site visitors to content on your new site when they’re looking for content from your old site.

A customized 404 Error page is an advantage for your site. It can help visitors find the information they were looking for and provides them with a much better overall user experience.

 

What should I include on my 404 Error page?

When a user lands on an error page that doesn’t contain any helpful content, it’s very likely they’ll navigate away from your site. To avoid frustrating site users and losing out on potential business, we recommend developing a custom 404 page.

The typical content a user sees when they reach a 404 Error page is a “page not found” message. This doesn’t provide users when any helpful information or instructions as to where to go from that point. To minimize visitor loss, a good 404 Error page provides a clear, helpful message that informs the user that the page they’re looking for can’t be found and points them in the right direction. You may want to ask the user to re-check the URL they’ve entered.

It’s also recommended that you use an error page that has been designed to look like the rest of your website. Maintain the main navigation menu, logo, fonts and colors. If the 404 page looks drastically different from the rest of your site, the user may become confused and abandon the site all together.

To prevent a visitor from leaving your site, include links or other elements that requires the user to take action. Include a link to your home page in addition to your main navigation menu.  You can also provide a few key links to your most popular categories or pages  on the site. If you have one, feature a link to your site map or search function. This will help the visitor find exactly what they were looking for. Here’s a good example of a 404 Error page with a search function from MailChimp.

To avoid having your 404 Error page appear in Google search results, make sure your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.

It’s also a good practice to ask site users to report a broken link on the 404 Error page so consider including a link to your contact page or email address.

 

Build a better website and stop turning visitors away with your 404 Error pages. To learn more, contact Sanmita today!

 

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