HTTP 404, 404 Not Found, and 404 error message are different versions of a response code that indicates someone is accessing a server, but cannot find the information being sought. Though frustrating, the 404 page can be helpful to both marketers and viewers – and even provide real value on the business end.
Nicolas Straut, an SEO associate at Fundera, said that if a 404 page isn’t creative and helpful, or worse, doesn’t exist, you could be losing valuable visitors. It’s essential that you think up a few clever ways to keep visitors on site when they mistakenly stumble upon your 404 page.
“First, you should identify this page as an error with a header such as ‘The page you’re looking for is missing, but wait!’ You could then offer a search bar for your site or offer site categories so viewers can quickly redirect to the places where related content is offered,” he said. “The goal should be to keep visitors on site and to help them find an alternative resource to answer their query.”
Mike LeMoine, owner of Maverick Web Marketing, said that one of the best things to do on a 404 page is to drop a special “unlisted” offer there that people can access just by having found the 404 page.
“Make them feel special like they found a hidden deal,” he said. “Additionally, if you are not selling right on the site, the ability for someone to enter their information to get a special offer or something else of value is another way to generate leads.”
The crucial goal with a 404 page is to keep people engaged so they don’t leave the website. One of LeMoine’s clients featured online ticketing, so he created a 404 page that gave a special unlisted discount. As a result, the company sold quite a few more tickets, and customers began sharing this “underground” page – driving buzz and higher online sales.
To attract leads, dive into your analytics, find the lead magnet with the highest conversions, and display this information on your 404 page. Bob Clary, director of marketing for DeveloperAcademy, said that another way a 404 page can attract visitors and leads on a website is to turn it into a search box.
“By offering users a space to find what they’re looking for on your site on a 404 page instead of blank space, you are more likely to drive sales and leads, plus your website will look more professional,” he said.
Swapnil Bhagwat, senior manager at Orchestrate, said that instead of settling for the regular “oops” message on your 404 pages, you can also customize it to make it more attractive to the visitor.
“You can even use your lead page as a 404 page on a domain you own,” he said. “By doing so, you could not only provide some relevant links to your website visitors but also provide a basic form to capture their name and email address, as this lead can help you to convert them into a prospect. All you need is a little bit of creativity and sense of humor that could possibly get the users attracted to your site.”
Intelivita’s co-founder, Dhaval Sarvaiya, believes chatbots integrated on a 404 error page with a proper sequence of questions and answers can reduce bounce rate, engage more customers, and convert them into new leads.
Web designers could also implement engaging videos with an easy capture form. This can help customers ease into familiarizing themselves with your brand. The video might discuss your company culture, testimonials, or promotional product information, leading the viewer to investigate your brand further.
404 Pages in Action
There are thousands of great examples of nicely designed 404 error pages that really display the personality of the brand by using specific visuals or language. But it’s also important to investigate why the visitor went to a non-existent page to begin with.
“I like to get to the heart of why people are trying to visit a page that isn’t there anymore,” Colton De Vos, marketing specialist with Resolute Technology Solutions said. “Was it renamed? Did the URL change? Is the page broken? If a large number of visitors continue to hit the 404 page, I use Google Analytics to see what path they took to get there and then either restore that page if it makes sense or provide links on the 404 page to the next most relevant content.”
MarketGoo offers a Pinterest Board with examples of some of the best 404 pages out there today. Larissa Murillo, marketing manager for the company, said that customizing your error page and including a link back to the homepage, a search function, and a live chat bubble can go a long way to reducing bounce rate on your site, which can help your SEO (and your rankings) as well as retain potential leads you would have otherwise lost.
Error page? No problem. There’s no reason a properly designed 404 error page can’t be elegantly and uniquely salvaged – potentially even building brand affinity in the process.