Have you ever clicked on a link and been redirected to a 404 page? Frustrating, right? 404 pages are those pages that users see when they click on links to pages that no longer exist on a website. These pages may have been deleted or the website may have been deleted all together. Users are also directed to these pages when they use broken links or they have mistyped the URL to the page.
This HTTP status code is sent back by web servers as an indication that the page that was requested could not be found. Although these are standard, depending on the ISP, you can use them to your advantage. You can use them to provide the users with information that is useful and therefore prevent users from simply moving away from your website.
Making 404 pages useful
Do you have access to your server? If so, you can easily customize your 404 page. A custom page can help you provide users with guidance that will help them find the information they were looking for in the first place. You can also use your customized 404 page to encourage users to look for other helpful content on your website. This will encourage users to stay on your website and explore it further.
The format of your 404 page will vary depending on your server. However, in many cases, 404 pages are usually standard HTML pages. This means that they can be customized. The following are some factors to consider adding to your customized page.
- Inform users that the page they are looking for can’t be found. Your language should be friendly.
- Customize the 404 page to have the same feel and look that the rest of your website has. This makes users feel like they are still on the same website and discourages them from leaving.
- Make suggestions for other content that the users may find interesting. Provide links to other posts and articles that are relevant or popular amongst users on the page.
- Provide users with an opportunity to report broken links. This will help you keep track of links and broken links on your website.
- Inform Google and other search engines about any changes on your website. Use the Change of Address on Google anytime you move a page or your entire site. This will reduce the incidences of users being redirected to 404 pages.
This guide only provides you with points to consider in customizing your 404 page. Information on how you can configure your server in order for your customized page to appear can be obtained from your webhost documentation or your server.