404 page not found: something requires your attention
That beautiful website you worked so hard on and checked 12 times for glitches before launching it houses a sleeping saboteur. For unknown and mysterious reasons, what once worked will be broken. And you don’t even have to be in the room.
That perfect image you finally found for your best blog post this month, instead of the sun shining on the sea, it will appear with a blank rectangle framing a question mark.
Without sun. Without sea. Fail.
Broken links, missing images, unplayable videos, and products that you no longer offer but live on your site all have one thing in common: they keep people away from you, but they annoy them first.
One way to ease the pain of those frustrations is to get creative with your 404 or “error, page not found” page.
Do you know what yours looks like right now? If so, is it branded?
If so, you get an A for effort, and there is more to do.
The point of the page is to appease and apologize, more or less, for something that could be your fault. They could have misspelled the URL as well, but let’s dismiss our need to be correct just this once. The seeker has come to a standstill and you have the opportunity to show him an alternative route to enlightenment. You will be the hero of the moment!
Here are 5 things your 404 page can do: The first two are homework.
- Bookmark the page. Write the message with the voice that you use in all your communication.
- Include a link to your home page or include your site navigation at the top
- Use humor because this is a situation that demands lightness from people
- List a couple of reasons why they could have landed there: A link broke, we pulled out what you were looking for, the dog ate it.
- Suggest that they read one of the best posts on your blog. – with image – then link it
Here are 4 of my favorites from around the web, to give you an idea of the different ways this important and often forgotten page can make a difference for your business:
It’s branded, they have their navigation bar at the top and they acknowledge that something went wrong and ask for your patience while they “put things back together.” Then they direct people to their blog, product page, and link to a free demo.
If you don’t know onion but you love satire and need to laugh at the current state of world affairs, subscribe to their newsletter. You’ll get an idea of his sarcastic wit on his error page. Very well done. And they offer a phone number for customer service in addition to the link to their home page.
He is a blogger and writes his as a dating ad. Sometimes just getting the message that you’ve gone somewhere by mistake works.
Who doesn’t love a cute dog? It is sure to calm the wild seekers. What they do the most well is navigation at the top, a link to the home page, and a link to meet “Amazon’s dogs.” Who knew they had dogs, but it’s a great engagement tool.
Speaking of broken links, here are two services that will detect broken links and other potential problems: Link Patrol, which has a one-time price, and Screaming Frog SEO Spider, which has a free and paid version. Those aren’t affiliate links and I haven’t used them either, but I’m going to go with Link Patrol because for $ 50 to crawl my site and update it, check it out every time you add something for a year, it’s a steal.
Let us amaze and love those who seek to learn more about us and our services, not drive them crazy. Things will break and the servers will stop working. By taking the time to be a little entertaining, we are making the broken world a better place.