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404 Error Pages – make the most of your old content

A “404 error page”, often referred to as a “Page Not Found, page”, is what is seen when a visitor to your website reaches a page that no longer exists. If people land on your website using a broken link it’s essential you display the right information to avoid them leaving. 404 error pages are also seen by visitors that type in a URL to reach your website, but make a mistake when typing it in.

Help your visitors with an intelligent 404 error page

You can’t always rely on the standard error pages because they don’t always provide enough helpful information. The main benefit to a intelligent custom 404 error page is to increase usability and ensure enough relevant information is presented to prevent people from exiting your website. Another great feature of a custom 404 error page is that you can style & brand it to match the rest of your site making it more friendly and engaging for the user.

Google can help improve your 404 error page

Google have recently released a widget for your custom 404 error page. This excellent tool provides related links in effort to try and find the page you were looking for. Also included is a Google search box that provides a focused site search within Google using your domain name.

Do you have 404 errors?

A good way to find out if you have any 404 errors on your site is to set-up Google Webmaster Tools. Within this Google will index your site and report any crawl errors identifying which URL’s are affected. This is a good process to go through to find broken links or old pages that need permanent 301 redirects.

Top Tips:

  • Explain clearly that the page the user has landed on can’t be found. Make sure clear a concise language is used.
  • Style your custom 404 error page to match the rest of the site including any top level navigation.
  • It’s good practice to feature popular links to particular pages such as the home page and even things like your latest news. This will help decrease exit rates.
  • To help clean up these broken links you could feature a way for users to report any 404 errors they come across.
  • Even if you make a fantastic looking 404 error page it’s advisable not to have this start showing up in Search Results. Simply make sure the web-server returns the correct 404 HTTP code when the page is requested.
  • Use the Google 404 widget to embed a search box on your custom 404 page and provide users with useful information to help them find the information they need.


Here is a great example of a custom 404 error page which features the Google 404 widget:

If you want any help, just give us a call.


Tom Hood

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