What Causes a “Page Not Found” Error?
A website visitor is shown a 404 page on your website when they try to visit a link to a page that does not exist. This can happen when they type in a URL address or when they click on a link. The error page tells them that there is a 404 error because the page they were looking for was not found. Here are the reasons why this error might come up:
1. The visitor did not type the page URL correctly.
2. The page that the visitor is looking for has been removed and there is no redirect to another page. This can happen when someone clicks on a link on your site that no longer has a corresponding page, or when someone is linking to a page on your site that no longer exists.
Make sure that all of the links within your website go to pages that have actual website content, and not to a Page Not Found Error. You can find online tools that will analyze your website for this.
Deciding How to Handle an Error
In some cases, you will want to direct visitors to a 404 page when a page they are looking for is not found. In other cases, it can be best to redirect them to a new page. Here are some 404 page tips:
1. If you remove a popular page on your site that is ranking well and has many external links pointing to it, then creating a redirect to a page that has similar content would be a good option. Also, let the people who are linking to your content know about the change.
2. If there is no content on your site that you can redirect the visitor to that is like the content they would want to see, then it is best to use a 404 page to let them know that no such content exists. For example, if they are wanting to see a blog post about camping areas in California, then it would not make sense to redirect them to a blog post about camping areas in another state.
Create a Positive Experience
Remember that many people may not know what a 404 error means, so they might be confused when they land on the error page. This can cause them to simply exit your site if they are not given a good experience with next steps to follow.
Minimum Elements to Include in Your Page Design
Here are some 404 page tips for minimum elements to include on your page:
1. Clearly explain what is happening without using technical language.
2. At the very least, have a link back to the home page so that the visitor can start over.
3. You can add a search option to the page so that they can start searching again right from that page.
4. Add contact information so that the visitor can contact you for help.
5. Add an option that allows the visitor to give feedback about the page.
Other Ideas to Include on Your 404 Error Page
1. Create a branded page with a company logo, colors, and voice.
2. Add something humorous to the page, if this is appropriate to your brand, to make the experience fun.
3. Add an offer to the page such as signup to a newsletter, or show a secret coupon code.
These elements can help to turn a potentially dissatisfied visitor into a happy customer. Consider how to handle the error, how to turn it into a good experience, and what to show on the page.
For more information about 404 tips and how to make a better user experience, give us a call!