Return to sender

Return to sender

A 404?! It’s the page your server displays when it can’t find the URL requested by the user. It used to be the stuff of nightmares. We would throw our hand up in horror then re-direct people to the homepage. Surely that’s how we deal with it? Actually no. That’s the opposite of what we should do. 

Let us tell you why….

There are two types of 404 error pages: Generic 404 and Custom 404.

Consider this. The user has asked for a specific page. Redirecting them to the homepage is aggravating for them. It doesn’t give them the information they’re looking for and they won’t be sure why. And it’s likely to be irrelevant information to them. Indeed, even sending Google to your homepage instead of a page that returns a 404 status could make Google think your homepage is a soft 404 error. Don’t do it! 

A generic 404 error page does not direct the visitor on what to do next. That’s where a custom 404 page comes in. It will reassure a customer that you are reputable and have considered their journey when arriving at your site thereby reducing frustration and potentially leading to a conversion. It also helps link to other parts of your site they may find useful. 

You can redirect some 404 errors to relevant pages if you have a way to determine which pages are relevant, like a similar product/category page or content that has the same information.

So, when do you need a good 404 page?

Good vibes only 

404 errors are exasperating. Therefore, the main purpose of a 404 page is to turn the negative experience into a positive one. It’s all about links people, LINKS! 

Why links? By having links on 404 pages, it gives the visitors a way out of the page. Instead of navigating away from your site, they are able to find helpful and potentially even relevant information on a different page.

Helpful links to add to your 404 pages should include:

  • Your homepage
  • Popular blog pages
  • Product pages 
  • A contact page to report a broken link
  • An HTML sitemap

Additionally, by adding a site search bar to your 404 page, you are giving users the chance to find what they’re looking for, directly from that page.  

Recent stats have shown that by adding links and a search function can increase conversion rate by up to 50%. That’s not to be sniffed at! 

Make ‘em laugh

They say laughter is the best medicine. There’s no better way to turn a negative experience into a positive one by making a visitor smile. Work with a designer to create a 404-error page that is clever and gets people talking. LEGO and Spotify are just two global brands who have put a lot of thought into their messages. But you don’t have to be a global mega-brand to get it right. Be creative, yet consistent with your branding and tone of voice. Keep your brand personality at the forefront and users will be reassured. It’ll keep people engaged and hopefully, keep them moving through the sales process. Which, in turn, reduces your bounce rate. 

Leave them with a warm fuzzy feeling after a positive result to their 404 issues and it may well even attract external attention for your brand and backlinks. Backlinks are always good! 


But remember….

Your 404 pages will not pass the much-coveted link juice.

Google indexes your landing pages therefore said pages can pass acquired link juice to your homepage (or other pages) through links. 

However, because Google doesn’t index pages that return a 404 status (which your 404 page should do), it means they aren’t assigning any of the value passed by links that point to pages with 404 statuses.

BUT! If you have a page that has lots of high-quality links and results in a 404 error, you can still redirect that individual URL to a relevant page.

Let’s get creative 

Honestly? It really is worth paying for a designer to create a 404 page (s) for you. They understand the best practices and have insights from experience and research into other 404 pages. They know to give contact details, header and footer links, and strong calls to action.

Give the user a choice of where they can go. Be clever and make it a sales opp. Add a video, an e-book or a game that will keep people engaged. It’ll do wonders for your conversion rate. 

They’re just some of our ideas so why not get in touch and we can turn your 404 page into a 10/10!