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Build an SEO and user friendly 404 page

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
12 August 2011

What are 404 Errors?

404 Errors occur when a web server cannot find an object with the URL you’ve entered.

Ugly messages often pop up on your screen like “This webpage cannot be found,” with little guidance on how to fix the issue.

What are the best steps you can take to ensure your 404 Error page is optimised for SEO and users as much as possible?

  1. Provide links to the most popular sections of your website.  Be sure that the anchor text is relevant and links through to the most popular sections of the site.
  2. A link to the entire site map.  Be sure to provide a link to the entire user-friendly sitemap.
  3. Provide a search box. This way, users can search your site for the content they are looking for.
  4. List potential pages the broken URL could be related to.  To do this, have a script written which searches your website for the broken URL.  Here are the relevant scripts you’d need to use on your wordpress blog.
  5. Explain what this 404 page means.  A friendly message like “Whoops! The webpage you’re looking for is no longer here, so let’s get you back on track.  Explore the links we’ve provided below of our most popular webpages (#1) and potentially relevant pages on our site (#3), or use our search box to discover your data (#3).

At the heart of it, you don’t want users to abandon your site because they haven’t been given enough help navigating your site.  Since it is Friday, and we want to end on a fun note, check out these funny 404 pages:

http://www.comedycentral.com/another-404
http://www.splicemusic.com/and-another
http://www.treachery.net/wow-more-404s

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