What is a 404 page?
We’ve all followed a link or typed a URL into a browser and received a page saying “Page Not Found”. This is a standard 404 error page displayed by a web server. Typically, visitors arrive at such a page because a web page has moved, been deleted or renamed, or the link they followed no longer works properly or an error was made typing the URL into the address bar. Despite your webmaster’s vigilance, all websites can and do occasionally return an error page, so make the best of it.
What is a custom 404 page?
A custom 404 page is one designed to have the look and feel of your website. Its purpose is to make the visitor feel that they have reached a page on your website, even if it isn’t the one they expected to see.
Why do you need a custom 404 page?
The standard 404 error page is ugly and unfriendly and when a visitor lands on one, their first reaction is to hit the back button. Although a 404 page usually directs the user to go to the domain’s home page and gives them a link to do so, very few people click on it. Instead, they assume something is wrong with the site and move on.
Studies show that only about 20% of the people who land on a default 404 page click on any of the links on the page; 80% are lost. The purpose of creating a custom 404 page is to try to keep those visitors on your website instead of allowing them to go elsewhere.
What should my custom 404 page look like?
In short, it should look like a page on your website. It should display the same colors, fonts and background of your site. For hospitality websites, I suggest that it contain two prominent links from which the visitor can choose – one to your home page and one to your booking engine or availability page. It’s also a good idea to display your phone number. Then, if a visitor becomes frustrated, he or she can pick up the phone and call you.
The most important thing on your custom 404 error page is your message. It should be friendly and apologetic and make it very easy for visitors to make the extra effort needed to look further into your website to find what brought them to this page in the first place.
What else do I need to know about custom 404 pages?
The inbound links going to 404 pages are dropped by the search engines after three to six months. Therefore, it is worth your time to try to get them pointed to an existing page on your site before you lose the SEO benefit they give you.
Place the code from your website tracker on this page and, if possible, monitor your log files and statistics for 404 errors. Find out where those bad links are located and correct them. Contact the webmaster of the site containing the broken link and ask that the information be corrected on their site. You may also want to include a form on your page that visitors can use to report broken links to you.
Corolla Classic, Outer Banks Vacation Rentals website has a nice example of a Custom 404 error page. Please take a look and let us know what you think about it.
If you’re inspired to create a Custom 404 page for your own website we can help, email us at Info@BlizzardInternet.com
Photo by CyboRoZ