Let’s pretend you have a website and you post helpful tutorials for your audience once per week. You get lots of feedback about your work being valuable and people find your content while browsing Pinterest all the time.
But then you decide to change a URL or two on your site (Maybe you’re doing some SEO improvements or going back to update older blog posts) and suddenly people are winding up on your 404 page because they have the old URL.
It happens to everyone, so no worries! We’re going to work through what to put on a 404 page so that it’s more helpful to your users if they do happen to land on it.
This is helpful for you because it reduces your bounce rate in increases the number of time users spend on your site.
It’s also helpful to your users because instead of a plain old boring 404 page, they reach a custom 404 page that is crafted with the intention of leading them to something that might be close to what they were initially looking for.
There’s a lot that you can do with your 404 page to encourage people to stick around instead of instantly leaving your site, which is what they’ll probably do if they encounter a default error page.
What should you put on a 404 page?
Everyone hates landing on a 404. But long story short, when someone does, you have an opportunity to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.
Use this page to direct your users to your best-performing content. That might mean a freebie opt-in, a shortlist of your best tutorials or posts, or a video. There’s a ton that you can do with this page and it doesn’t take much time to customize at all, so let’s dive in!
Give it some personality
Make it scream your brand and make sure it has some personality. Those two things go hand-in-hand, but if your brand voice isn’t super distinctive then this is a great place to double down on the personality and hook people back in because it’s way too easy for them to just leave when they get to this page.
Inject a bit of personality into this page if that fits with your brand. Otherwise, it’ll be so impossibly boring they’re hitting that “x” button ASAP. Here are some ideas of how to do that:
- Add a humorous or light-hearted headline in place of your “This is a 404 page” message.
- Drop a funny GIF or image into the page of someone looking confused or annoyed. Easy way to poke fun at the situation!
- Craft the rest of the copy on the page with extra focus on personality. Use this moment to connect with your ideal audience and make them think “she’s cool, I’m going to check out the rest of her site.”
Make sure it’s on-brand
Keep it on-brand by adding your colors and fonts and make sure your copy is written in a voice congruent with the rest of your branding.
It’s easy to just throw something up on this page and never give it a second thought, but this is such a great place to create another branded experience for your audience. Your peeps will end up here eventually, so put some thought into the page. It should be recognizable as your brand’s.
Offer them links to your best stuff (Freebies, popular posts, etc.)
Use your 404 page as an opportunity to help your ideal customer by showing them the way to your most helpful/popular content. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Link them to a few popular blog posts (I do this on my 404 page)
- Send them to your best freebie
- If your Facebook group is really popping off, invite them to join
- If your Instagram highlights could be a full-fledged course, let them know about it and send them to your profile
However, you can get them acquainted with how you can help them – do that here!
Send them back to your homepage and/or offer them a search bar
For the people who don’t click on the content you offered up – give them a final opportunity to stick around on your site by giving them a way back home or an opportunity to search for what they were looking for in the first place.
A custom 404 page can help keep your users on your site longer
Google looks at your bounce rate and the amount of time people spend on your site as an indicator of whether or not your website is helping people. That’s a big deal because Google wants to recommend helpful content to its users.
The longer people spend on your website, the more likely Google will be to pick up on the fact that your website is high-quality and really helping your audience. So, taking the time to customize your 404 page (You can do it in as little as 10-20 minutes if you’re pretty familiar with your website platform) will definitely pay off, since you’ll be enticing people to stay rather than leave when they hit that 404 page.
How to check whether people are leaving your site when they get to your 404 page
Use Google Analytics to check out what users are doing when they hit your 404 page. You can also use heatmapping tools like HotJar and CrazyEgg to get a more visual look at what people are doing. I recommend looking into one of those tools whether or not Google Analytics is your cup of tea because you can glean a lot of valuable info about how people are using your site from them.
Wrapping up: What to put on a 404 page so that it keeps people on your site
- Personality in your copy and/or images
- Your branding (Colors, fonts, voice, etc.)
- A call to action to your most helpful content
- A way out – so a “home” button or a search bar or both
- Keep it simple! Don’t overwhelm them.
Got questions for me about creating a custom 404 page? Comment and let me know. 🙂
Other posts you might like:
- Wix vs. WordPress: The Pros and Cons of Both
- Ways for Photographers to Improve their Website
- How to Design Custom “Pin It” Buttons for Your Site
- How to Start a Blog (on WordPress) That’s Set Up for Monetization
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