Considering nearly every web platform has the ability to produce a useful 404 page, It is amazing how many web designers simply do not understand how to properly utilize a 404 page on their sites.
For those who do not know what a 404 page is, it is what a website displays when you attempt to go to a page or post that either does not exist or has a broken link.
Here is an example of a poorly designed 404 page.
And here is an example of a well designed 404 page.
Typically, when finding themselves on a 404 page most will leave the site and attempt to find the information they were looking for elsewhere. This is why the 404 page is so important. In this post, I will briefly go over a few reasons why everyone needs to be utilizing the 404 pages on their websites.
A good 404 will create a better UX
One of the best and easiest ways to begin building a 404 page is by giving it a look that is consistent with the branding on the rest of the site. The best way to determine if you have done this correctly is by ensuring that those using it would be aware of what website they are on even if they have found themselves on a 404 page. This can be done by adding the main parts they would see on the rest of the site like the logo, menus, and sidebars. Additionally, you could also build on this by giving them options on the 404 page to help them find information relevant to what they were originally searching for.
A good 404 will reduce bounce rate
A byproduct of building a 404 page that is congruent with the rest of the website is that it will decrease the website’s bounce rate which is an extremely important part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Pages that have higher bounce rates and lower times on-site will appear lower on search results. This is because the search engine has determined that the information found on the site may be less relevant to the user than similar content displayed on another website.
A 404 page can be a useful tool
Lastly, another great way to utilize a 404 page is by using it to examine how frequently users find themselves on it. Often times web designers will set up a page redirect to send all 404 traffic to a working page. This does eliminate all 404 status codes but it will also make it far more difficult to find broken internal as well as inbound links. For example, If you happen to see a vast increase in the amount of 404 codes over a short period of time it could be a sign of broken links on the site that need to be addressed.
Ultimately, if a 404 page is built correctly it can be another useful asset to a site that will positively increase overall user experience, help the site rank higher on search engines and can be used to help find issues that need to be addressed. There are more ways to enhance a 404 page but just implementing these 3 easy steps will go a long way in terms of beginning to understand how useful it truly can be.