404 Error: Ways to Turn an Error into a Sale
What is a 404 error?
Let’s take a look at 404 errors and what to do about them. A 404 error is an HTTP status code when a user attempts to request a server from a page that in fact does not exist.
Most people have already encountered this phenomenon and have seen the 404 error message by surfing the Internet. Below is an image of the 404 error that we use on our site.
There are a number of reasons why these errors can occur:
- The user entered the address of the page they were looking for incorrectly.
- The page redirect is configured incorrectly and the page itself is located at a different address.
- There was a temporary fault on the server.
- The page was simply removed from the site.
Site owners or SEOs are often aware of potential 404 error issues and try to avoid them. However, it is not always possible to react in time to such changes on the site. This is especially true for sites that have thousands, or even millions of pages.
When searching for the page the user needs, the standard Google error page is also encountered.
Does 404 error harm your site?
There are disagreements among webmasters on this score. We believe that a “404 error not found” notification has little or no impact on search engine rankings.
It may harm your site in other ways.
For example, when landing on a non-existent 404 error page, a user may be less loyal to the resource and quickly leave it. This can negatively affect the average time spent on the site and will be a negative signal for search engines. Read the related article – What is a Good Bounce Rate?
Another example is when you have thousands of pages on your site. A Google bot has a crawling time strictly allotted to your site, during which it must scan the maximum amount of pages and codes. Now imagine that hundreds of your pages provide a 404 error code. Hundreds of other working and important pages for SEO may be left without being indexed. This is not good.
After a certain time, the page you need might simply fly out of the index.
Adhering to the opinion of whether the 404 error is harmful or not is necessarily your personal choice.
How to fix the 404 error?
Webmasters usually use 3 approaches to the issue of how to fix a 404 error:
- They never use a 404 error page but instead set the error pages with 301 redirects. This method is well suited for link building. The link weight of the page with an error goes to the page from which it was taken and which they want to promote in the search results. For more information, see article 301 vs 302 Redirects. Complete SEO Guide to Implement.
- Mix the use of 301 redirects and the creation of 404 error pages.
- Don’t do anything with 404 errors.
Before deciding which path you will go, you need to find the exact 404 error pages. I will briefly talk about several ways to find these errors.
- Google Search Console
The easiest way is to use a free service from Google such as Google Search Console. With its help, you can receive notifications about problems on the site like the site not found error 404. To see a page error report, simply go to the Coverage report and see detailed information about 404 errors. Read the related article – What is Google Search Console, and How is This Tool Used?
- Screaming Frog
Another great way to find 404 errors is to use Screaming Frog.
Enter your domain name for analysis and run the spider. When the site is 100% crawled, go to the “Response Codes” tab and filter out 4xx errors. ou are done! Now you can ee all the links to 404 errors that are on the site and you can continue working with them.
Creating a 404 error page
I hope you have already understood what a 404 error page is and why you need a 404 page. The only thing left to do is to create one. To prevent users from asking the question “what should I do with a 404 error”, follow a few simple rules when creating it:
- Don’t forget to keep the style of the site.
Once on the site, people should be sure that they are still on your site and can find what they are looking for.
- Think over the page design.
Be creative, use the imagination of your designers and marketers to interest the client, and make them stay on the site. Use cool images, funny phrases, animation, maybe even games.
- Use navigation.
Remember that if the user sees “page not found error” in front of them, then they most likely did it unintentionally and were looking for something else. Try not to leave the client without navigation elements as much as possible. Select the main sections of the site to which the user can go. It will optimally take into account the nuances of the business.
If you have an online store, suggest similar sections and categories of products that the client stopped at. In the case when you have an informational site, you can leave links to go to the main page, blog page, or main sections. This will eliminate the possibility of a user seeing “Google error 404”.
- Add a search box.
When a user lands on a 404 error page and doesn’t know where to go next, it’s a good idea to leave the site search field for them. This feature will give maximum flexibility to the resource and will not allow the client to leave it.
- Add a description.
Feel free to add a short description on the page. Describe in a few words or sentences that the person mistakenly ended up on it. List the options by which they could get there and what to do next.
When creating a 404 error page, remember that this page is no different from other pages on the site.
First, you need to create a page and add the file to the root folder on the server where the site is located. Then connect the page through the ht access file by writing a line of code in it. It looks something like this:
ErrorDocument 404 http://mydomain.com/404.html
To check the correctness of the operation, enter your domain name, and make a mistake in the URL. If you see a new page, then you did everything correctly.
Examples of using 404 error pages that will benefit you
Link building using 404 errors
Fortunately, a 404 error page isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, with the help of these errors, you can set up the link building of the site and get additional links to your resource.
The thing is that almost all sites sooner or later face a similar problem. You just need to look closely and find such links from your opponents.
The essence of the scheme is simple. We use site analyzers to investigate your competitor’s domain. We turn to the analysis of the link mass and look which sources link to this site. Note that some of these links are displayed with a 404 response. This is a good signal for you.
The next step is to select such links and rate them. Perhaps the site is quite authoritative. For example, from some blog they link to a competitor’s website but you see that the link is broken, but everything is in order with the article itself. This is the chance to post your link.
Contact the owner or webmaster of the site, describe the situation. Tell that they have a broken link and perhaps you could post your working link instead of the one that was there previously.
This method can be a good addition to your usual site link building scheme.
Creative 404 error pages
Often, when a site visitor stumbles upon a problem like a 404 page, it is annoying. In order to reduce the client’s stress level and the desire to immediately leave the site, pay attention to the design and information content of the 404 pages. Consider the most creative solutions to this issue using the example of well-known world companies.
- For example, the well-known global whiskey manufacturer Jack Daniels designed the 404 pages in its corporate style, making it atmospheric thanks to an empty road with the inscription “Looks like you’re lost, friend”. Also, thanks to the navigation on the page, the resource user can easily return to the desired section.
- The most famous American comic book publishing company, whose name has become worldwide known in our time, is Marvel! Even to such detail as the appearance of the page 404, they approached with its characteristic scope and personalization. In the excellent examples of the design of the error page, we see several variations of it that correspond to the style of a particular comic book of the publication. In addition to the amazing design work, the company has provided a very convenient navigation system that will help the user to continue working with the web resource.
- It’s no surprise that a large number of companies use humor. For example, the humorous Internet community 9GAG used a modified comic fragment from the animated film “The Simpsons” for its 404 error page to entertain its users. Given that the content of this resource is mostly humorous in nature, this decision seems quite logical.
- If you are a fan of non-Marvel comics, then most likely head to the DC production comic page. Finding yourself on the 404 error page, you’ll see an excellent symbiosis of humor, artistic graphics, site topics, and thoughtful site navigation.
- Another humorous approach to the design is present on the website of the FOX TV company. If you are lucky enough to get to the 404 error page of this site, you will meet the most charismatic character in the animated series Family Guy.
- The creators of more serious services, such as the Porkbun hosting site, are not deprived of humor. If the search has led you to the wrong place, then a warlike pig in armor will help you return to work with the site.
- For fans of the Star Wars saga, the site creators have prepared a unique design solution using the Death Star. At the same time, they did not forget about the site navigation so that the user remembers why they came.
- As always, Disney studio turned out to be one of the best in graphics and animation. One of the unique features of this 404 error page is the use of animation. This is not so common.
- The laconic decision in the style of the company was made by Android. Modest design, good description of why you came to this page, and a navigation button to return to the homepage of the site.
- An empty dish, like your search page, awaits on the site of the world-famous fast-food chain Burger Kings. The site creators left the restaurant menu as the main navigation button.
In conclusion, I would like to say that a 404 error is not always a sentence. As you can see from the article, you can get good benefits from it and turn it into a sale.
If you keep track of your site and control what happens to the pages, you will not lose clients.