How To Turn Your 404 Pages Into Lead Drivers
Do you know what happens when people searching for your site hit a 404 page? If you don’t, there’s a high chance you’re losing a lot of traffic because of it. Firstly, let’s quickly cover off on exactly how people find themselves on 404 pages. They pop up when someone either types an incorrect url directly into the address bar, or clicks on an out of date link. More technically, a 404 is the message sent to a computer or search engine to let them know the page they’re searching for isn’t there. If you haven’t set up a customized 404 message, the user is simply going to receive a message from their browser which will look something like this:
This is the worst case scenario, as there’s a high chance the user is going to abandon their search for your page. So, how can you turn the situation around?
At the very least..
As a starting point, you’ll at least want a basic customized 404 landing page. This is much better than having the user land on a browser generated error page. For the basic page, include some information about what’s happened and alert them that the page they were looking for isn’t there. Be careful not to admonish the user for trying to access a page that’s not there, this is a great way to make sure they leave and never come back.
Make them stick around
Now, to avoid having them abandon your page, you’ll need to feed them some bait to get them back on board. Depending on your particular site there are a few options for the kind of information you can include:
Relevant links: This is a simple option, you can include links to your most popular information pages, highly sought products/services, or contact information.
Search option: If your site has a search option, include it on the 404 page. This will allow users to locate the info they were originally looking for. If your site commonly delivers 404 errors and you don’t have a search option, you should definitely consider adding it.
Keep it minimal: At this point the user is still a bit confused about what happened, so don’t overwhelm them with a full fledged navigation bar. Keep it nice and simple and give them a few options to help them on their way to finding what they were looking for.
Link to your sitemap: Utilizing the sitemap is an extremely easy way to get users back on track to what they were looking for. It’s easy to implement and has the added advantage of always being relevant regardless of what updates you make to your site.
Don’t be too cute
You’ve probably seen a round up of creative/clever 404 pages before. While these might look cool, and possibly score you a mention on one of these round ups in the future, they’re not particularly effective at delivering users to where you want them to be. I would recommend the urge to shoot for a cheap laugh, and follow the tips above to help your users get to where they, and you, want them to be.
Do you have a customized 404 page on your site?