What’s your 404 page like?
I don’t know about you, but I used to completely ignore my 404 page.
My 404 page would just say, “Oops! Page not found!”, and my visitors would be left in limbo.
As I was systemically evaluating my blog for places to optimize for subscribers years ago, I came across my 404 page.
Most of you would know that I am extremely detail-oriented. When I get obsessed about something, I don’t leave any loose ends untied.
I can’t believe I once lost so many lost website visitors without giving them a chance to continue their journey with me!
10 Must-Dos to Systemically Optimize Your 404 Page To Retain Visitors
1. Tell them the problem
As this is a 404 page, the first step would obviously be to tell them that they’ve encountered an error.
A simple statement saying, “404 Error! Page Not Found.” would suffice.
This may seem very obvious but if you don’t do this, people will get angry because some of them may think that you have baited and switched them.
2. Cause an emotional switch
So, they know the problem now… What next?
The trick is to cause an emotional switch.
Understand the psychology of someone landing on your 404 page – likely, they are feeling unhappy and slightly annoyed.
You want to throw them off with a lame joke, an amazing graphic, something that will result in a mood change and distract them from the fact that they have just wasted a few seconds of their life because of you.
For me, I try to turn it around and impress them with a simple statement: “Search more than 100 tutorials at my articles directory here.”
The aim is to get them to forget that they’ve encountered an error, and impress them with the amount of value that is now available to them.
3. Tell them what to do next
You want to tell your visitors to check for misspellings, and to verify that what they were searching for was correct.
This will solve the 404 issue for a percentage of your lost visitors.
In my 404 page, I do this with a simple statement right at the top of my 404 page by saying: “Perhaps you can check your URL for misspellings. You could also return back to the site’s homepage and see if you can find what you are looking for.”
4. Direct them to your home page
I like to tell them to visit my homepage instead to find better resources!
For most of you, your home page would be full of juicy lead magnets, webinar invites, pretty graphics, or your latest posts…
So, sending visitors to your home page would work really well for you.
Getting people to visit your homepage works especially well for loyal visitors. You want to keep them in your eco-system to keep finding new articles to read.
5. Add a search bar
A search bar would be extremely useful in this situation because your visitor can use the search bar to conduct their search again – and hopefully find whatever they were searching for!
Personally, I don’t use a search bar because I feel like I don’t have THAT much content that I need a search bar for users to find my content.
Don’t forget, a search bar is useful when it helps your readers to get to your content. But if you only have 5 blog posts, adding a search bar would likely annoy your users when they key in something but can’t find anything on your site that is relevant.
If you have a huge website with a ton of blog posts, you may want to provide a search bar.
6. Link to your most popular posts
Additionally, you can also provide links to your most popular articles.
This reduces the bounce rate of your site and keeps those “lost sheep” visitors engaged with your very best content.
7. Add your contact information
You can also add a way for people to contact you – this will make you sound more personable.
It also provides a “last way out” solution for your visitor, where they can choose to email you if it’s something really urgent and they can’t find what they were looking for.
I do this by adding these 2 lines right at the bottom of my 404 page:
“Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Fret not!
I’m easily contactable at raelyn[at]raelyntan.com. I’m here for you!
8. Avoid corporate jargon
Use plain language. Avoid the typical corporate jargon that comes with 404 pages.
Nope! It’s a living and breathing page that people regularly visit by accident, and they don’t expect to find jargon here!
You’re trying to build a relationship, not bore people to death.
9. Retain the same design
Is your 404-page design so fancy that a website visitor wouldn’t be able to identify your 404 page as a page from your website?
It is important that your 404 page retains some element of your website design so that your visitors wouldn’t be caught off guard more than necessary.
I mean, they are already feeling a little displaced because they have clicked on a broken link, let’s not introduce any more disturbances to their browsing experience!
10. Most importantly… Have a call to opt-in!
Your 404 error page is the perfect place to insert your best lead magnet.
We all know the importance of building your list, right?
Placing an opt-in form with a bribe allows you to have an opportunity to provide massive value to your visitors… and even convert them into a subscriber.
That’s what I call a win-win situation.
You can position your lead magnet as a “Sorry, here’s an apology gift”, or something similar, so that they go from feeling annoyed at you to being impressed at your hospitality and thoughtfulness.
Right now, I don’t have a lead magnet at my 404 page because I’m revamping my email sequences, but I’ll definitely be adding one when it’s ready!
Are you ready to optimize your 404 page?
You don’t have to do everything here, but try to implement at least a couple of these tips.
This would ensure that your 404 will help you to engage any traffic you have and keep them on your site!
Once again, here are the optimization tips we’ve covered:
- Tell them the problem
- Cause an emotional switch
- Tell them what to do next
- Direct them to your home page
- Add a search bar
- Link to your most popular posts
- Add your contact information
- Avoid corporate jargon
- Retain the same design
- Most importantly… Have a call to opt-in!
I hope that this post has helped! Now, go forth and optimize that 404 page of yours.
Please share this post if you’ve found it useful!
Have a blessed day ahead.