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Prevent Visitors from Leaving your Website with a Custom 404 Not Found Error Page

March 7, 2008
Jay

If you spend any time surfing on the internet, I’m sure at some point you have come across a 404 error page, stating that the page you are looking for cannot be found. I personally have come across this error countless times, and I know how frustrating/disappointing this error can be. Many times when visitors request to view a page on your website and see this error, they will leave your website immediately. There are many reasons why you might receive this Not Found error. Some possible reasons for a 404 error page are that the file has been renamed, the file has been deleted or moved to another location, the file cannot be found because of maintenance, or the visitor mistyped part of the url.

To prevent visitors from leaving your website if they happen to come across a 404 error page, you can customize your error page with your own content or make it look and feel like your website. Many websites have a customized 404 error page with either links to other pages of their website or a search box to help the visitor find exactly what they are looking for. Some examples of websites in different industries with customized error pages are Circuitcity.com, Amazon.com, Nordstroms.com, and Searchengineland.com. All of these websites have provided a link back to their homepage or have navigation on their error page that mirrors their site to avoid visitors from leaving.

Besides just using the 404 error page to retain visitors, this is a great search engine optimization tactic. Not only do you not want your visitors to find a Not Found page, but you also don’t want the search engines to find broken links on your site. This can negatively hurt your search engine optimization strategy. In addition, this 404 error page can also be used similarly to a html sitemap page, where you provide keyword rich links to other pages of your website. This is great for the search engines and your visitors!