| 4 min read

Getting lost is no fun

Even with GPS, people get lost all the time; the same is true when traveling across the world wide web. Suddenly… boom, your readers come to a screeching halt. Sorry, buddy, you’ve just hit “Route 404.” 

Your reader has clearly taken a wrong turn in the cosmos, and yet, digital marketing experts encourage businesses to create a custom 404 page. Now, why on earth would you intentionally design a “404 error page” for your website? Great question and we’ve got a really good answer. A custom 404 page is not a “404 error page not found page.” Therein lies the difference.

(Source: Google Images)      

404 = roadblock?

Readers get a “404 error page” when they mistype a URL or click on a link that no longer exists on your site. Typically, readers will turn around and go the other way, and that’s exactly what smart readers will do when they click on your website and get smacked with a big ugly “404 Page Not Found.” Dang! They just X’d out and you’ve lost them. Do you think they’ll come back? Probably not.

What is a Custom 404 page and why do I need one?

(Source: Google Images)

But wait, what if that 404 Page was designed in your brand?  

“Dorothy, we’re still in Kansas after all.” That’s precisely what a custom 404 page does to let readers know that while they didn’t get to the page they were searching for, they’re still in the right place. You see, all it takes to get a 404 error page is one wrong character when typing, or maybe there’s a glitch in your HTML code? Did you forget a dash, perhaps? Hey, it happens.

More “404”

There’s actually a website called 404 errorpages.com. They write, “According to a recent poll conducted by the web masters, only 23% of visitors who encounter a 404 page make a second attempt to find the missing page. The other 77% of visitors will not make any effort to find a missing page whenever they encounter a 404 error.” 

The point of customizing a 404 error page is to increase the chances of keeping visitors on your site. It’s a value-added feature and, most of all, it tells your visitors that you care about their experience when visiting your website. 

Best practices for Custom 404 web pages

So how do you create an effective custom 404 page, and what are the benefits of doing so? Aside from keeping your visitors on your website, a good custom 404 page can redirect them “Home” or, in fact, to any page you feel is most likely to keep them engaged on your website. 

You can also embed a URL that will get the reader back to your main menu. According to an article in Small Business Trends, you should make sure your custom 404 page is useful and helpful. The best-case scenario is that your custom 404 page will help convert website visitors into viable leads. After all, that’s one of the reasons you built your website in the first place.  

Tips from “404errorpages.com”

A good 404 error page conveys the right message and takes your visitors where they initially intended to go. In addition to a simple written error message in a slightly apologetic tone, it should include the following:

  • Explanation of why the URL could not be found
  • Spell check function for failed URLs
  • Ability for the visitor to visit other important links on the site, especially what’s popular
  • Redirection to the main page or a help page
  • 10 links or fewer with one for emailing the webmaster 
  • Search field link connecting to a list of links similar to what was entered
  • No display of ads
  • No redirection of 301 and 302

Be a Marketing Titan: 

✓ Understand the difference between a “404 page” and a “404 error page”

✓ Learn why you should make a custom 404 page for your website

✓ Get tips for creating an effective custom 404 page

✓ Call Titan for advice on how to optimize your website

Elise Freedman

Elise Freedman

Elise Freedman is a freelance marketing consultant and writer with more than 25 years of marketing experience across a broad spectrum of industries, including healthcare IT, health benefits, senior living, and animal advocacy. She lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband and two Weimaraners, Bella and Hailey. In her spare time, Elise helps people deal with the loss of a family pet as a Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselor.