How to customise your 404 pages

Posted on April 2, 2010

 

Error pages are a fact of life for any website. Every so often, the browser will fail to contact the server or a similar small error will prevent your page from loading. The most common error occurs when someone tries to access a page that is no longer there. Up pops the predictable, boring, subtly confusing ‘404: Page Not Found’ screen.

This page can lose you customers, unless you do something about it.

There’s no avoiding the fact that an error page will pop up in connection to your site every now and then. At the same time, you don’t want your site’s users subjected to a boring, soulless white page at the same time as a frustrating delay. These pages, which often provide no explanation or apology for the error, don’t help the situation at all.

The answer is to customise your 404 page to make the situation a little more palatable. Companies have noted that a customised 404 page, with an explanation or a joke, will keep an Internet user engaged long enough for them to look for an alternative page. The actual design of the page can be changed to anything that you want – even incorporating the design and layout of your website. The content can also be altered to answer some of the user’s questions, and even provide a link back to a page that will assist them. This small change to such a small part of your site can keep users on your site instead of putting them off.

Customising your 404 error pages can be a good addition to your SEO. Although a 404 page doesn’t really contribute to your website’s search engine optimisation, as it is never indexed (or should not be), it can prevent Internet users from leaving your site in frustration.

A custom 404 error page could benefit your website’s link popularity however, acting as linkbait – as there are many custom 404 error page websites that feature other sites with well designed error pages.

It’s a good idea to consider this small touch as part of your SEO plan.

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