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404 pages help high-end interiors brands improve SEO

Wayne McMaster

23 July 2015

If someone visits a page on your website that doesn’t exist, your hosting server will typically generate an “Error 404″ web page.

There are numerous reasons why a page on your site might go “missing” and therefore display a page not found message:

It may no longer relevant and has been deleted. For example, it might have been about a product that you no longer sell, or an ex-employee profile who no longer works for the business. The visitor might have typed the full page URL into their browser and misspelled the address. An external website could have linked to one of your pages and misspelled the address – something which you have little control over. The name of your page could have changed. When you do this, it’s preferable to do a “301 Redirect” from the old page name to the new page name, but we'll look at that in another blog post.

Here’s a couple of examples of a default Error 404 pages:

Error-404Default error 404

Not filling you with joy? As you can see, the default 404 page is not particularly helpful or appealing for the following reasons:

  • It contains technical jargon which isn’t helpful to your average visitor
  • It isn’t branded and doesn’t look like it’s part of your website
  • It provides nowhere else to go

A better approach is to create a custom Error 404 page which provides a chance of salvaging a lost visitor. Here's a list of ideas you can develop for your 404 pages:

  1. Don’t call the page “Error 404”
    404 is the error code returned by the hosting server when a page or resource can’t be found. This code is transmitted in the header section of the server’s response and doesn’t have to be seen by your visitors. A better page title would be something along the lines of “Sorry, the page you requested is no longer available” or even “Page not found”. Given the fact that it’s probably not your visitors fault that they’re seeing this message, try to use apologetic and helpful wording. There’s no harm in providing a specific, “Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try our homepage” or  "Sorry! We couldn't find the page you were looking for.", than simply stating the facts, such as "404 Error: Page Not Found".
  2. Brand your Error 404 page
    Brand your error 404 page and use the framework of your site including header, navigation and footer. This provides a better experience for your visitor and is especially important if the page was arrived at via a broken link within your website
  3. Include your search facility
    Having a search form on your 404 page will make sure that the user feels inclined to continue searching what they were looking for - thereby staying on your site
  4. Include your contact details
    There’s still a chance that the visitor will contact you if they can’t find what they’re looking for
  5. Include a link to your homepage
    If your 404 page looks integral to the rest of your site, there should already be a link back to your homepage
  6. Don’t automatically redirect to your homepage
    Avoid the temptation of automatically redirecting visitors to your homepage when they stumble upon your 404 page. It won’t be obvious that the page they were looking for no longer exists and will only serve to potentially confuse them further.
  7. Report a Broken Link
    Having an easy way for a user to report a broken link is also useful - especially to you! This can be in the form of a button which sends the broken link URL to you, or a simple email form.

We'll leave you with a few 'considered' 404 messages:

404 message

404 message

404 message

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