You’ve seen it before, the dreaded 404 error page. Someone types in a URL to your site, or clicks a link on one of your blog posts, expecting to land on a certain page or article, but instead they get some sort of a 404 error message. This page is a default page that your site will display when a specific page is not found. In fact, a 404 page is also referred to as a “Page Not Found” page.
But don’t worry, having a 404 page is not a bad thing… in fact, it’s actually necessary, because it lets a visitor to your site know that whatever they’re looking for can’t be found. As your website grows and you make adjustments over time, various URL extensions may change and some internal links may not be accurate. You should certainly check this regularly, and you can easily do so with a simple Chrome browser extension called Check My Links, or you can use an external SEO spider called Screaming Frog.
Another reason a 404 is necessary is if a visitor makes a mistake and types in the incorrect web address. Remember, your visitors are human, and humans make errors. Another reason this could get triggered is if another site linking to yours uses an outdated link. In fact, this happens quite often.
However, that doesn’t mean you should be linking directly to your 404s for any reason, and you should make sure that any internal link goes to an actual page. Regardless, you should have a 404 page set up, and you can even use it to your advantage to make sales! Read on below to find out the best practices for your eCommerce page, so you can turn your 404 page into a way to not only keep your customers but direct them towards a sale.
For 404 page optimization, there are a number of things you should keep in mind. We’ll go over the best practices for what to include in your 404 on eCommerce.
The first thing you should have on your 404 page is, of course, a message about what happened. Have you ever seen a page that says “internal server error” or “file not found” and it drives you nuts? Don’t do that to your client. Get rid of the standard messaging on your 404 page and explain to your customers in plain, understandable English what happened. Most people have no idea what a 404 is, so explain to them the possible reasons why they could have reached this page. Just including this simple explanation will go a long way. Communication is key!
You don’t need to build an amazingly beautiful 404 page in order for it to be effective. In fact, most if not all 404 pages are still pretty basic. But including your branding on the 404 page will do a lot to keep customers engaged. A generic 404 page may mean your customer will think they got taken away from your page, which is the last thing you want. Include your logo in the header, and if you can, some sort of image that will easily remind your customers which company’s page they’re on.
If your customers hit this 404 page, you don’t want them to assume it’s a dead end. Give them the ability to continue to navigate within your site to get to other areas they may be interested in. An easy way to do this is to include a sitemap or series of helpful links in the footer of your 404 page. You can even include a search bar here to help your customer navigate directly to where they want to go. That being said, you don’t want to overwhelm your customers with too many choices.
Take a look at our site’s 404 page to see how we do it:
Beyond the basic best practices, there are some other fun things you can implement into your 404 page to really utilize it as an advantage for you.
404 pages tend to be drab and boring, but many good companies use it as an opportunity to inject some of their brand’s personality into yet another page. If you’re a fun, playful brand, you can do something funny, telling a joke, or being a little self-deprecating (of course, if you’re a law firm or doctor’s office, you may want to avoid this). Include images or creative language to connect on an emotional level with your customers. Amazon, for example, does a great job of this. At the Amazon offices, dogs are a huge part of the work culture and have become quite famous for it, in fact. So they took the opportunity to create a number of 404 pages with different “Dogs of Amazon” profiles, along with a link to see the full bunch of these famous beloved company pooches. It’s a great way to soften customer dissatisfaction while promoting and showcasing the fun Amazon company culture.
Another way to make your 404 page a positive is to actually turn it into another selling page. If you have a lot of products you want to expose your customers to, you can utilize your 404 page as a way to direct them to other items they may be interested in. eBay does a tremendous job of this, as you can see below:
Even with all the creative examples from big eCommerce companies, you’ll still see some prominent yet horrific 404 examples out there. To demonstrate exactly what NOT to do, take a look at Walmart’s 404 page. It hardly has any information on it, looks empty and lifeless, and is sure to turn off their customers. Pretty surprising for such a large company to do something as egregious as this, but they aren’t the only ones.
You may have completely overlooked your 404 page, but as you can see, it can actually be an integral part of your brand’s online presence. Broken links happen, no matter how closely you monitor all of your links, so you might as well take the time to use your internal 404 page to your advantage through some easy-to-implement practices. There are many other details like this that may slip through the cracks when your running and growing a business, so let us take the reins and help you optimize every detail of your site. Contact us now to set up a chat and see just how we can ensure your eCommerce page and website is delivering for your business.
Yuriy oversees Catapult Revenue’s marketing team, ensuring all SEO, PPC, analytics and development work is executed with precision.
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