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Re-engaging Visitors Through Error

Mon, Mar 21st 2011 03:00 pm

You come across them all the time. Pages that no longer exist, have moved to a new server, or perhaps never existed at all. Regardless of who's to blame for the mix-up, you'll generally receive an internal message from the server informing you the error of your way in the form of a 404 page. Unfortunately, default 404 pages usually don't provide any useful information, forcing you to go back where you came from and try again, often with the same result.

Don't be fooled though, it's still possible for custom 404 pages to leave visitors hanging. Google's new 404 page is a prime example. The internet giant recently made headlines after abandoning their outdated but informative 404 page in favor of a new, minimal design. The new page features a distressed looking robot which reads, "The requested URL was not found on this server. That's all we know." While clicking the Google logo will direct you back to the search engine's landing page, little assistance is offered otherwise.

As Danny Goodwin at Search Engine Watch put it, the new page is "geeky fun no doubt, but...Google breaks one of its own rules for creating useful 404 pages: to 'help people find the information they're looking for, as well as providing other helpful content and encouraging them to explore your site further.'"

The good news is that your website doesn't have to be that way. It can have a great design and be an effective tool to help visitors find the information that they're looking for. In order to keep visitors engaged in your site and prevent them from abandoning ship at the first sign of trouble, your 404 page should:

  • Clearly inform the user that the page they're looking for can't be found (in language that is friendly and easy to understand).
  • Uses the same look and feel as the rest of your site.
  • Contains links to your site's content or a search tool, as well as a link to your site's home page.
  • Provides a way for users to report a broken link.

Without calls for action drawing visitors to other pages and an opportunity to report errors, it is possible that they will navigate away from your site in frustration and never look back. Prevent the loss of visitors and keep them coming back to your site with an attractive and useful custom 404 page of your own.  Contact 360PSG today at 716.829.7373 to get started!