A few days back, Harsh talked about optimizing Thank You pages for increased ROI & I’m extending the series by sharing optimization tips to increase conversions from your 404 pages. But before all of this, refer to this well-written guide to understanding what a 404 error page is & how to optimize it for search engines.
Are you finding conversions decrease after users stumble across a 404 error page?
The 404 page can actually count for a lot if you are careful in planning its optimization.
Can you guess the average lifespan of a webpage? It’s about 100 days. Links can be problematic for things like deleted or moved content, or if there are any changes in the permalink structure.
Being realistic, you may lose one-quarter of your total links every seven years.
When a user opens any of your bad links, he/she will see a 404 error page. (They can get the same results by a mistyping a URL or by clicking on a truncated link.)
The default 404 error pages are quite possibly the best examples of the worst user-experience designs.
I personally hate the standard 404 error page. You can see my hatred in your site’s bounce rate…
But if you optimize your 404 error page, you can avoid this unwanted increase in bounce rate, which will result in increased conversions.
7 Top-notch tips for Optimizing 404 error page
1. Use User-Friendly Language
The first thing to do is replace technical language with human language.
Most people don’t even know what a “404 error” is. They only know that they didn’t get their desired result. Technical terms displayed on the error page will make them frustrated.
The default error message can be replaced with something easily understandable by human beings.
- Page is not available.
- Oops! This link isn’t working.
- Oh dear, something is wrong.
2. Let Them Know You Are Sorry
Don’t blame the user for the error; it can make them feel stupid, and it’s not their fault.
Instead, you should be sorry. Accept that it’s your fault and apologize.
Users will appreciate that.
Check out this perfect example from Email Center UK. They not only accept their fault, but they give you the chance to punish one of their co-workers:
Now instead of getting frustrated and leaving, users will be enjoying “the firing game”. This will significantly reduce the site’s bounce rate.
3. Let The User Know About Possible Reasons
Once you deliver the error message, explain the possible reasons for what went wrong.
Some possible reasons:
- URL is incorrect.
- Error in copy-paste
- Link is broken.
- Link is truncated.
- Content moved.
- Content deleted.
Hootsuite gives a perfect example:
4. Provide An Immediate Solution
404 error pages are dead ends, and that’s what users dislike the most about them.
There is nowhere else to go…
The best way to improve user experience is to provide an immediate solution.
For example, you can ask the user to check if there is a spelling mistake in the URL, or you may suggest a close match to the intended URL.
Brett Terpstra gives a list of posts which include the keyword used in the requested URL:
Don’t forget to hyperlink the suggested posts as this will immediately bring the user to a working page.
5. Help Users Find What They Want
This is another solution to circumvent the dead end.
Allow the user to search your site to find what they want.
You can include the following options on your 404 error page:
- Navigation menu
- Link to homepage
- Sitemap link
- Search bar
- Popular posts
- Popular products
ShoutMeLoud 404 error page gives a solid example:
The Hustle asks the user to simply head home… with an apology:
Twitter takes the user to a search bar filled with the requested URL. Hitting the “Search” button, the user will get more results according to their original query:
MailChimp also takes the user to a search bar with an exciting animated image:
ModCloth leads the user to a page with popular product suggestions. This is indeed a smart strategy for an eCommerce website to increase user engagement:
6. Keep The Choices Limited
Providing too many options to users, in order to help them in their query, might be overwhelming. Let the user perform the least possible number of actions. Too many choices for unhappy users will make them even more frustrated.
Check this brilliant example by Android Dev 101. There is just one place to go, and it’s back to the homepage:
Another cool one by Milkable. Just go back where you came from:
7. Give Users The Ability To Report
Empowering users to instantly report the problem makes them feel satisfied. They feel that they have contributed to resolving the issue.
Simply add a contact form on your error page.
Check out this example from UX Booth:
And here’s another cool design from Path. The added footer navigation is there in case users want to browse around instead of reporting:
404 Optimization: Increase Conversions, Decrease Bounce Rate
It’s not hard to create a good 404 error page that empathizes with your users. You simply need to be creative and let the user know that you are sorry.
By doing this, you create trust with your user, and they will want to stick around.
What 404 optimization tips do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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