404 pages or 404 errors are the greetings one will usually see upon coming to an online page that no longer exists due to being deleted. There are also other circumstances that could force them to disappear. There’s no doubt that 404 error pages can be intimidating; they are also are often sad or disappointing to encounter… the thing is, they don’t have to be.
404 error pages will only be like that or viewed negatively if you leave them alone in their current state. As a blogger or website owner who has pages on their website with 404 error pages, you can transform them into something positive. Think of it as turning trash into treasure (a bit hyperbolic but it can happen) or making good use of setbacks.
There are many ways you can make good use of 404 error pages; you’re in luck because we’re here to enumerate them for you. So don’t delete or ignore them, get creative with these methods:
One of the most obvious things you can do to a 404 page is to have it redirect to other pages, especially the relevant ones. Depending on what the visitor is looking for when they stumbled onto the 404 page, they just might change their course; if you have enough content, they might become interested in what alternatives you have to offer.
This can be anything from your list of best articles, related content, your homepage, or the actual content which migrated to another page or server. Whichever you pick, it’s a good use of an otherwise empty and useless page. Plus, your visitors will thank you for it. In other instances, it can also double as a way of letting visitors know that your website isn’t dead despite having a 404 page.
Generate leads with it
Another trick in the book would be to turn your 404 page into an email subscription. You can do this by turning the error page into a lead magnet or somewhere people can leave their email addresses to you as some form of subscription. This ensures that you can get a hold of them and maybe turn them into loyal visitors.
Now, how do you make a lead magnet? Simple things like eBooks or content subscriptions can do the trick. The more rewarding it is, the better. The trick is to make people think they’re getting something else in return for the 404 page; the only thing they have to do is to leave their email addresses to you to complete the transaction. This is also a good way to convert visitors that would otherwise be part of the bounce rate.
Coupons, freebies, or discounts
Lead magnets are one thing; actual freebies and promos are another. However, you don’t exactly have to outright give it away once the visitor sees the 404 page. These freebies, coupons, or discounts in any form can be exit-intent popups. Instead of letting them leave the 404 page empty-handed, why give them something worthwhile?
This is more viable as a strategy when it comes to eCommerce websites or online stores but any blog can do it nonetheless. Think of these exit-intent freebies and coupons as compensation for annoyed visitors. Of course, that would be assuming you have something free to give. If you don’t then it’s high time you get to work on your free stuff– those convert well.
Transform it into a search box
This might look like a simple method to squeeze the last drops of benefit from a 404 page; however, it’s actually quite clever, we’ll get to why later. Do note that including a search bar in place of 404 error pages is a welcome courtesy in the eyes of visitors. This way, they can easily search for alternative keywords that are related to what the 404 error used to have.
Now, this is also why it’s a clever method. You can easily turn this 404 page search box into an SEO gauge. Since it’s a search box on your website, you can collect data via Google Analytics regarding what people were searching for. This is regardless of whether the search box you placed is for Google or within your website’s archives. To do this, simply head on over to the Site Search section in Google Analytics.
Use humor or references
This can be a polarizing way to benefit from your 404 error pages. On one hand, some of your visitors who have been presented with a 404 page could be frustrated already; on the other hand, a bit of humor or references done right might just cool their hot heads.
The humor part can be anything from jokes, puns, and even memes. If you want to play it safe, references are pretty harmless; so anything from movies, pop culture, or the internet of things can add a bit of lightheartedness to your annoying dead end 404 pages. Certain plugins let you redesign your 404 pages quite easily.
Use it to show off your branding
Apart from humor or references, a 404 page can also be a branding or advertisement opportunity for you. Turning your 404 page into a personalized art page custom-made for your website conveys a lot more dedication and care compared to a 404 page with just the basic HTML or browser template.
Sites like Reddit, for example, have customized 404 pages that show their mascot or site brand. This makes the 404 page more welcoming and also leaves an impression on a disgruntled visitor about the care you put into your pages. If you don’t want the humor or reference route, then this paired with maybe a search box, lead magnet, or redirection page ought to do the trick.
Apart from generating leads, giving visitors a way to directly contact the site owners or bloggers makes it easy to communicate or report the error page. This is handy in case the 404 error was something you can fix or remedy quickly.
As we stated earlier, you also don’t have to stick to one method. You can combine these methods in order to make good use of 404 error pages. Just be careful not to overwhelm your visitors with too many alternatives.