It’s a part of your website that you hope nobody will ever see, but having a well thought out 404 error page will help users get back on track if they arrive via a broken external link, a mistyped URL, or simply a navigation oversight.
If a user arrives at a default WordPress website from a broken link, WordPress displays a simple “Not Found” message. Not particularly helpful, right? The user has no indication of why the page they were looking for is not found, nor do they have any options of how to proceed. A single click of their back button and you have lost a visitor.
“So what can I do to help?”
The simple answer is to offer a way out. If you can engage with that user, keep them on your site and guide them in the right direction, you won’t be leaving them frustrated. There are several easy methods you can employ to do this:
- Explain what might have gone wrong
- Provide a link to your homepage
- Give the user a search bar
- Include a blog archive or recent posts list
Additionally you might want to ask if the user could provide you with details on how they arrived at your 404 page. This would allow you to do a bit of research into what caused the problem and hopefully go ahead and fix it.
Pro tip: if you need to move a post or page don’t just delete the old one! There may be other sites linking to that page. Instead you should set up a 301 redirect to take users from the old location to the new one. By doing this you’re giving anyone that lands on the old URL the ability to find the new URL with no effort, avoiding any 404 dead ends.