Identifying And Improving Your 404 Pages
- Amrita Bala
- Digital Strategy
- 21st July 2017
At some point in time, all of us have landed on a that dreaded yet highly inevitable 404 page. As common as a 404 error is, it is something that should not be taken lightly and something companies or bloggers definitely need to stay vigilant about. When users land on a 404 page, frustration starts to brew, making your visitors a lot more likely to leave your page, thus affecting your bounce rate. As we all know, a high bounce rate can truly hurt when it comes to SEO rankings, and is something that should be worked on to avoid. Aside from SEO, too many 404 pages on your site gives users an impression that you do not take your business seriously, and if so, makes them wonder why they should put their trust in you.
When it comes to 404 pages, the main thing you can do to improve user experience is to just completely work on reducing the very possibility of them even landing on a 404 page to begin with. Prevention is key! However, with that said, we do know that it is near impossible to avoid every single instance of a 404 (unless you are a robot), so your secondary goal should be to ensure that should someone land on a 404 page, they land on a well designed and resourceful page that prevents them from leaving your website immediately. So, how do you do this? Read on to find out more!
1. Identify and Fix Broken Links
There are quite a few tools out there that have been specifically designed to assist websites in quickly and easily identifying all the broken links that may be on their website. Thankfully, most of these tools also come cost free, and you won’t have to fork out hundreds just to identify and fix your broken links. Have a look into one of these tools and you will get a list of all the links on your website that need to be fixed.
Next, you will need to go through all of these broke links and update them – you can figure out which links need to be updated, or which ones simply need to be removed once and for all. Tracking your progress as you go is helpful as it can ensure that you don’t miss out on any links yet again. Keep in mind that this task can take up quite a bit of your time if you have a myriad of broken links, but it will ensure that in future, your users will have a much better experience on your website. Repeating this process once every few months can also help you identify and fix broken links as soon as they occur, ensuring that your website is always updated and in top shape.
2. Update 404 Error Pages
Okay, so we are not saying your users are never ever going to come across a 404 page ever again on your website. Such a belief is just fantasy. What we can work on, however, is that when they do indeed encounter a 404 error page, they aren’t put off immediately. How can you do this? First of all, you will want to keep your 404 page on brand. This means no generic 404 error pages, but instead, customised ones that keep in line with your brand and design.
Secondly, make it helpful. A user who lands on your 404 page is clearly trying to get somewhere else – so help them with that. Provide suggested links that help people navigate back to relevant pages. Including a search bar also helps them get to the page they are truly looking for.
3. Inject 404 Error Pages With Personality
404 pages pretty dull and technical, so make it better by entertaining your users and injecting some personality into these dreaded pages. Add a joke, a funny video or just a cute illustration that may make your user chuckle and you have instantly improved their experience on your website!
4. Update 404 Error Pages
If you’re finally convinced you want to create a customised 404 page for your website but are unsure of how to go about doing so, always check with your web hosting provider for instructions on how to access/update 404 pages. WordPress users can follow these instructions or download plugins like this one.
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