Have you ever deleted a webpage on your website, or simply changed its location? If so, you may be opening yourself up to a realm of frustration.
All too often, webmasters seem to forget to incorporate an amazing 404 error page. Believe it or not, your 404 error page could be one of the most important of all of your pages.
While most hosting providers make it insanely easy to create an elegant 404 error page, it is even easier to create a beautiful and functional one inside of WordPress with little effort.
Significance of an Amazing 404 Page
The 404 page is a HTTP response code that, in layman’s terms, signifies that the file is missing – the server is connected, but it cannot find the file.
You may be wondering, though, why it matters – what’s the point of it? If the error is displayed to a visitor, they’ll just move on to other parts of the website, right?
No. They will not just move on. They will leave – you don’t have what they’re looking for.
Key Parts of a Great 404 Page
A Brief Description
Depending on your niche, your readers may have no clue what a 404 page is – you need to explain to them what happened. Accurate or not, the message must be carved into their brains.
With the help of my adorable friend Carl, it is easy to convey that the page is missing. Every 404 page is different – some use humor, some are serious, and some are straight out stupid.
The short description of the error is key to keep the visitors around – you want to force the visitors to stay even though they couldn’t find what they wanted instantly. You have to sell it to them.
Suggestions (Smart 404)
Right after your quick description of what went wrong, you need to provide some suggestions to help the visitor along – they need to be directed.
Luckily, there are some amazing plugins available to WordPress users that make this possible:
Smart 404 is an amazing plugin that will literally bring life to your 404 page. Like never before, your 404 page can be relevant to those who receive it.
Picking apart the invalid URL that brings the user to the 404 page, it can give suggestions to other posts, or even redirect the user to the appropriate area.
Should the URL of one most have words that another URL has, it will display the results in a list with the latest occurring first. If only one match is detected, however, it will cut the middleman out and redirect them.
When used in conjunction with Smart 404, SEO Slugs creates a powerful base for shortening URLs.
With these newly shortened (and SEO friendly) URLs, the results of the Smart 404 plugin will be more accurate, while also helping your SEO efforts.
Uh-oh. No matches were found. Your brief description told the visitor what went wrong, but Smart 404 failed to find a relevant post. What now?
A closing plea, of course! Tell them to go to the homepage (and link it – that goes without saying), or even provide a search bar. Make it easy.
On the bottom of my 404 page, I added a link to the homepage, and referred the viewer to the searchbar on the right. It’s pretty efficient.