First, What’s a 404 Page?
Whether you are a small business owner new to all things web, or you just need a refresher… here’s the official definition of a 404 page from our friends at Raven Tools:
A 404 Page Error or Not Found error is displayed when you go to a page that doesn't exist within an active website. This type of error page appears when a website is active, but the specific page within it doesn’t exist. A different error appears if the whole website you’re visiting is unavailable.
This error typically occurs when you follow a broken link or if you type in a website address that doesn’t exist.
A 404 error page is one of the most common notifications you’ll see on the Internet. In fact, almost every website has a 404 page not found notification.
The notorious 404 page pops up for a few reasons... Sometimes people type in the wrong URL, a webpage moved locations, or your server goes down for a bit. In either scenario, they will hit a 404 page. The bummer is, a lot of the time if someone comes to a page like this they will never come back because they couldn’t find the information they were looking for.
In reality, though, you can use it as an opportunity to turn a basic 404 page into a way to grow your business.
Why Should You Care About Having a 404 Error Page?
Broken links on your website is a no-no in the eyes of Google, who essentially holds a monopoly on search engines these days. (Thus, you want to always optimize your pages to accommodate Google’s ranking factors.)
If you need a refresher on SEO, you just need to remember this: If your page provides a poor user experience, search engines see it as an indicator of low quality, and it will not rank well. So, cleaning up broken links on your website can improve the user journey, and thus your organic rankings on Google.
Long story short, the user experience is important. And URL redirects or notifications like a 404 page can help improve the user’s journey on your site.
So, do a little housekeeping every once in a while. Audit each page, set redirects, and make a plan to customize a 404 page. Even if your website is void of any broken links, having a 404 page in place when people mistype a web address is advantageous.
What Should a 404 Page Include?
- Explain to visitors why a 404 error has occurred: Include why they got a 404 if it makes sense. Having a brief explanation as to what happened can help visitors figure out what to do next. Maybe they’ll notice they typed in the URL wrong.
- Include the words “404”: This may sound like web-speak, but important to include because Google’s spiders will interpret it as an error page. It’s also important to include “404” in your URL “slug” so it reads something like this: www.website.com/404.
- Tell people what to do: Do you want users to return to the homepage, submit personal information, go to a specific website, search for something on your site, or download something? Whatever action you want them to take, specify it (simply)! Take it a step further, and make it easy for people to take the next step by hyperlinking or customizing the page with buttons or forms.
- Include images that appeal: Make people laugh, cry, or say “ahhhh”. Infuse a little personality on this notoriously boring page.
- Make it interactive: Add buttons, hyperlinks, and custom forms to give people extra interactivity so they don't flee and leave disappointed.
- Ensure navigational and search elements are easy to find: “Make the search field prominent enough that it doesn’t blend into the design, and you should add a headline to tell visitors what to do when landing on the 404 page,” says The Good.
Need Some Inspiration? Here Are Some Unique 404 Page Examples
Clicking on a broken link can be a real wet blanket, but a witty and well-designed 404 error page can actually educate, inspire, and enlighten your audiences… And sometimes even prompt them to take further action.
Want to see how Leadpages optimized our very own 404 page? Check it out!
Here are some cool 404 page examples to inspire you:
Tickle People’s Funny Bone
People are likely to be frustrated when they get a 404 page, but the paper-airplane gag can ease the annoyance and entice them to look at the rest of the page. Since they’re looking at the rest of the page to figure out what is going on, their guard is lowered a little bit. So now they’ll actually read your copy and find something valuable here. This example from Pixar is lighthearted and cute:
Turn Lost Traffic into Leads (Or Help Them Find Their Way)
Pillsbury’s 404 page is best-in-class for a couple of (excellent reasons). Not only do they showcase their brand’s voice with a little bit of humor, but they also provide a search bar and 5 helpful links (including one to contact their tech team). But...wait a second….oh, there it is! A pop-up opt-in displays on the screen with an invitation to subscribe to their email list...D’oh!
(Subtly) Showcase Your Product
On first glance, Codepen’s 404 page feels like your standard operation, but it’s, in fact, doing something slightly ingenious: featuring a sample illustration from one of their community members and, in turn, showcasing their product’s capabilities.
Off-the-wall visuals help show a brand’s personality. Users are less likely to be frustrated by a 404 if they laugh or are caught off guard in the process. This example from the New Museum in New York shows headless horse artwork and prompts users to use its search bar to find what they are looking for.
Include a Form Field
Kiss.com, an online dating site, includes a form field within its 404 page so they are collecting leads and directly reaching customers. Custom form fields can apply to just about any industry and are easy to integrate with a 404-page template.
Any page, post, or message should be on-brand. This goes for 404 error pages as well. In this example, MailChimp uses an illustration and some clever copy (both of which are attributes of its brand) to customize its 404-page design. It’s definitely not your everyday 404 page, right?
Include Other Helpful Links
AirBNB’s marketing is usually spot-on, and it’s no different with its 404 strategy. Here, you’ll see that within the 404 page this hospitality guru includes links to dive of its most visited pages, so they extinguish the chance of users pogo-sticking from their site after they see a 404 message.
Consider The Opportunity for a Sale
If customers can’t find what they want, give them choices. This example from Gypsy Outfitters shows abundant options for visitors to peruse through. It’s a great way to customize a 404 page to prompt sales!
Offer a Takeaway
Give people something to download! This way you can build your list from an otherwise lost opportunity. If visitors don’t come away with what they’re looking for, at least they still get something of value. You can give them anything your audience may find interesting, like an e-book, free report, or video. Your goal here is to provide as much value as possible to people before they’re gone since they usually don’t come back. Here’s an example from Firefox.
It’s simple to set this page as your own 404 page for your entire site, and even easier if you use a template as a simple standalone opt-in page for anything you want to offer.
If you have Leadpages, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your account. Just log in and you’ll see how to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.
Ready to turn your 404 page into a lead generation opportunity?
You’ll be humming a happy tune after learning that 404 pages don’t have to be boring, plain-text pages with zero value-add to your business. Consider a 404 page as an opportunity to create drive visitors to stay on your site or take a next step or even a tool as a converting lead magnet.
Need more inspiration to craft the perfect customized 404 page? Download the landing page lookbook for 50+ examples with illustrious, high-converting pages. And if you’re not already a Leadpages user, test drive our landing page builder for 14 days, free!