404 pages are pages that are non-existent on your website. We cover what they are and what the best practices for 404 pages are.
When a user navigates to a page that no longer exists they are usually shown a 404 error page. 404 pages can crop up on any site and there are many reasons as to why they might show. An example is an eCommerce website that has taken down pages of products no longer for sale but has not redirected them. Another could be a move from an old website to a new website without redirecting the old URLs.
Many people will think that they should redirect the 404 pages to the homepage. Whilst this is the easiest thing to do this is not the recommended strategy. What you should be doing with 404 pages is redirecting them to the most relevant page on the website. If there is no relevant page then they should be redirected to the homepage.
404 pages create bad user experience and this is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. We want to deliver exceptional user experience so visitors continue to use the website.
You can begin to do this by customising 404 pages. You can add a custom graphic and additional navigation. You could add links to your blog, popular blog pages or other popular category pages. The intent is that you want to try and show something useful to the visitor and this will in turn encourage them to stay on your website for longer.
Custom 404 Pages
Creating a custom 404 page can be very useful and it can include a search bar as well as custom graphics. This compared to the standard 404 page delivers more value and will also help with the following:
- Keep visitors engaged with the website for longer and this will in turn increase the time spent on the site.
- Reduce the bounce rate
- Make visitors smile if they see a quirky or fun 404 error page
When 404 Pages Aren’t Suitable
If you have a page to your website that has a lot of backlinks to it, it is usually advised that you don’t serve a 404 error for this page but focus on redirecting or reconstructing the page. You don’t want to lose the link juice that is going to the page especially if you had keywords that were ranking.
If on the other hand you have a page that receives a lot of traffic you want to do the same thing and want to get this page live again so you don’t lose this traffic.
Paying attention to your 404 is important, your focus should be on providing the best user experience to visitors to your website therefore you will need a well-constructed 404 page.