404 pages are probably one of the most overlooked pages by bloggers. Lets face it sometimes we do make mistakes and one of these is providing readers with a 404 page that just has a default “page not found” message.
Perhaps you have come across cool looking 404 pages like the one from Kitkat below.
And you thought that it would be cool to do something similar for your site, but you don’t have the time or ability to do it.
I have some good news – you don’t really need design skills or anything complex to out together a high converting 404 page. There are a few simple things that you can do to build a high converting page that keeps visitors on your site.
Instead of just stating the problem, with your 404 page, why not turn the mistake into an opportunity by offering a solution?
To turn the mistake into an opportunity you really need to get into the mindset of your readers. Chances are that they clicked on a link somewhere on your site to get to the 404 page. So really it could be that it is your fault. Here are a few things you can do to remedy the situation and show that you care.
- Apologise for them having come to the page in the first place.
- Ensure the style of the 404 page is the same as the rest of your theme and not like the Windows blue screen which is almost certainly going to drive people away.
- Use humour. However be aware that if you are going to use humour make sure that everyone, including those for whom English may be their second language, get the humour.
- Include a search function so they look for something specific on your site.
- Provide navigation on the page so they can return to the content on your site and also provide an opt-in form so they can get your updates or free offers.
- Links to recent posts and or popular posts
- Links to categories or tags of your blog
- Provide an ad or promotional offer. I am not sure how successful this would be bit if the person is going to leave your site it wouldn’t hurt. Personally I would recommend trying to keep them on your site as far as possible.
- Keep an eye out for broken links at least once a month and fix them. via your analytics account.
Creating a Better 404 Page
Let’s look at a couple of ways that your 404 page can be made better to increase conversions and to aid your visitors.
Provide an offer or opt-in
One of the best things to put readers at ease when they come to you 404 page is to put them at ease. Briefly explain what happened and suggest that they opt-in to get the information you have for them. That way you increase your conversions and get them moving to other parts of the site that engage them and hopefully get them coming back as a repeat visitor and may be even share your content.
When people come to a 404 page they are likely to read the copy on the page to see what is going on and decide on their next actions. So the probability of them reading the actual content is higher than usual and if it is good they are likely to opt-in to your offer. Most people do not expect an opt-in offer when they come to a 404 page so there is a good chance that they will opt-in as opposed to other circumstances when they are presented with an opt-in offer.
I have done something along these lines on my 404 page.
Provide Access and Transparency
You can also provide access to your resources page to help new readers get acquainted with your site and content
Make it easy to get in touch. Building trust is crucial and leaving them in the dark when they arrive on a 404 page is not going to build any trust for you. So add a contact form so they can get in touch with you and let you know what they were looking for. Think about it – it’s not their fault they came to the 404 page because they can’t find something on your site. Yet this simple step can seriously improve trust between the reader and you.
How to Build a Custom 404 Page
If you are using a Genesis theme like I am then this plugin makes it really easy to build a custom 404 page.
However if you are using some other theme you can find some useful plugins to help here and tips to customizing your 404 page here and here.
How to track your 404 page traffic
Answer this how often do you check traffic to your 404 page? If you are like most people you hardly ever or neglect it completely. However from a user experience as well as a search engine perspective it does not fulfil expectations. It is not overly complicated to keep an eye on your 404 page traffic. You can use Google Analytics to alert you to 404 traffic, especially if you are getting more than a certain number of those visits in a day. Here’s how:
Create an alert
You can create an alert in Google Analytics so that it sends you an email when the number of visits to the page reaches a certain number. You can create a custom alert as below. If you need instructions on how to get there, check out this resource.
Track your 404 page visits as a goal
Setting up a goal for your 404 page traffic on Google Analytics will give you important information such as finding broken links as well as the steps that readers used to get to the 404 page.
Once you have done the above you can also do the following to gain even more insight into your visitors search behaviour and needs:
- Add the 404 report to your dashboard to make it easier to monitor.
- Monitor your navigation summary report in order to understand what readers are doing after they leave the page in order to further optimize the content on the page.
- One of the most useful things you could do is to add a search box if you don’t already have one. That way you will be able to get an idea of the content that people are after and provide it. It also gives you information on the following metrics. The figures shown will be data averages except for the total number of unique searches:
- Total number of unique searches. This shows the number of times people started a search from a 404 page.
- Search result page views after searches. This shows the number of times visitors viewed a search results page after performing a search
- %search exits. This provides the percentage of searches that resulted in an immediate exit from your website.
- Time after search. You will get to know the time visitors spend on your website after performing a search
- Search depth. This gives insight into the number of pages that each visitor viewed after performing a search.
Forget the …Oops and get Creative
The point is to get creative. It isn’t hard to come up with a few ideas to improve your 404 page and increase conversions on your site. You don’t need design skills.
Whether it be to get extra email subscribers or to push affiliate offers or anything else get creative and do something different.
Now take a moment to tell me below what the objective of your 404 page is and how it is working for you or not.
Also if you found this post useful share it with your blogger friends.