The 404 Page
December 11, 2014, by Sebastian Maier
Once here, there’s nowhere else to go! Who has not encountered it before – the 404 error, that indicates that a sub page on a website could not be found.
A possible message that an Internet user could then find may look like this: “404 – page not found” or “The page you requested does not exist.”
The error can have many causes: an error in typing the URL, an outdated link or a deleted page. But as different as the causes for the 404 errors may be, the user’s brief moment of frustration will still always be the same. It comes as no surprise, then, that visitors will leave a website particularly often when they come across a 404 page.
This can be counteracted by first tracking down the so-called dead links within one's own website, and second, by designing the “inevitable” 404 pages – for example when the user mistypes a link – attractively and in a helpful manner.
What Are Dead Links?
Dead links within your website and those found in your content not only lead to dissatisfied customers, but they also harm the SEO factor. That is reason enough for you to track them down and get rid of them.
There are many tools, some of which require payment and some which are free, that promise to find dead links effectively. But the tool that is probably the most reliable and, at the same time, completely free is Google Webmaster Tools.
After logging in, the “Crawl Errors” option can be clicked in the website’s dashboard.
You can there find out how many internal links Googlebot was unable to crawl on this website – to put it plainly, just how many and which links on your website are dead.
You can then use backlinktest.com’s Dead Link Checker to verify which links on your website refer to these dead links, and delete or change them. By the way, the Dead Link Checker reveals not only the internal, but also the external links that are dead.
Designing a Helpful 404 Page
As mentioned above, there are 404 errors that are inevitable, for example, when someone makes a typing error while entering a URL. In order to nevertheless keep the visitor on the website, the 404 page should be designed to be as helpful as possible.
From the user-friendliness perspective, it should at least be standard to include a search field next to the error description, so that the user can quickly and easily find the content that he was looking for when he originally visited the page. This is also better for the SEO factor. A web agency can help in setting this up.
Related links that help to keep the user on the page may also be useful. Examples of this are “most popular articles” or other content on your website that has proven to be particularly interesting for visitors.
An option for contacting the website publisher can also be enormously helpful in preventing the 404 page from discouraging a user. The website’s logo or branding, and access to the usual navigation additionally give the user the feeling that he is still at the right place.
You can also get creative
404 pages have also already inspired a bloom in creativity for some people, and, in many instances, are filled with humorous images, text or GIFs – as on the Emailcenter website, for example.
Further examples and suggestions for 404 pages that will put a smile instead of a frown on a user’s face can be found in the article “404 Error! Wanna play Pacman instead? – 50 examples for creative error pages” on t3n.de.
How do you design your 404 error pages?