What does error 404 mean?

December 27, 2022

Table of Contents:

Many users, faced with a website with a 404 error, may leave the website. This should not be allowed to happen. Owners of both young and long-established web resources should care about keeping any visitor. Will help in this literate design of non-existent pages. In this material you'll learn about what an error 404 is, how to detect it and make it in favor of the website.

The essence of an error 404

With the code 404 "Not Found" probably experienced by everyone. This error occurs when a user enters a nonexistent page or enters its address incorrectly. The code itself confirms that the connection with the server has been established, but the necessary page is missing.

Leading to the empty link is referred to as "broken" or "broken". A 404 error can be due to the following reasons:

  • the visitor entered the wrong page address;
  • the page on the website was moved or deleted. Thus, the URL of the page may have been changed, but the "broken" link is stored on third-party resources or in browser bookmarks.

Even a single "broken" link may confuse the user (especially if he is a first-time visitor) and his first thought will be to leave the page. website owners must make sure this does not happen. Errors 404 must be converted for the benefit of the web resource. Two main tasks must be solved:

  • forming a user-friendly design that allows for visitor retention;
  • providing useful content that will help the user decide on further actions.

There are different ways to find and design 404 pages. We will tell you about the most popular options.

Ways to find a 404 error

When indexing a website, search engine robots can report the presence of various errors, which the webmaster can promptly correct. It's easy enough to detect and work through the errors on small websites. But what about large web resources where content is regularly changed and updated, and the number of 404 pages becomes difficult to control? Various services will help to solve this problem.

Google Analytics

In order to view a report on 404 pages viwebsited in GA, it is necessary to send the data on the visit when they are fully loaded. You can do that with the following code:

        document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function() { 
            ga('send', 'pageview', {'page': '404_ERROR?page='+ document.location.pathname + document.location.search +'&from=' + document.referrer,'title': '404 - NOT found'});

document.referrer here is the URL of the previous page and document.location.pathname + document.location.search is the address of the nonexistent one), title is the parameter passed to GA that specifies the page name (for further filtering in the report).

document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function(){}) is an analog of the $(document).ready(function(){}) function on jQuery. If you use the jQuery JS framework on your website - you can use this function, if not - use the whole example above.

To check the performance of the script and see how many users have viwebsited non-existent pages - go to "Behavior", "website Content", "All Pages" report in Google Analytics. The filter is adjusted by the name of the missing page (title parameter, passed to GA):

Other ways

Webmaster tools - Google Search Console - will also help you find out about missing pages. In the Webmaster you need to open: "Indexing" - "Pages in search" - "Excluded pages" and filter the report by the "404 error" status.

In Google Search Console, this report is "Coverage" - "Excluded" - "Not found - 404":

Does a 404 error affect the website's indexing?

There is an opinion that the abundance of 404 pages worsens the position of a web resource in search results. This is not entirely true. The mere presence of a URL with a 404 response code on the website will not do any harm. This is even evidenced by the Google help:

However, there are a number of other reasons why you should fix the situation. For example, it's to keep the link weight on the website. To do this, you need to set up a 301 redirect. This could be:

  • redirect to the new address if the page has been moved;
  • redirect to the section page, if the page was completely removed.

This is a common practice in online stores: the card of a product that has been removed from the range is assigned a redirect to the section with the desired category.

Recommendations on the design of pages with 404 errors

We recommend designing 404 pages. They affect the bounce rate and advertising budget. For example, a person who came to the website from an ad and saw a 404 error, will simply leave the resource. In this regard, the pages need to be properly designed. Standard 404 page may look like this:

It does not look very friendly, due to which most users simply leave the web resource. To keep them, you need to follow some simple rules in the design of such pages. SEO experts have developed a list of recommendations for the design of 404 pages. Here are some of them:

  • 1. Being nice to visitors and explaining the situation. The person ended up on the "broken" page through no fault of their own. You need to indicate your regret and help him.

MailChimp service does a great job with this. The caption reads: "We lost this page. We looked everywhere, but we couldn't find what you want. Let us look for a better place for you."

  • 2. No need to explain the technical details. The "error 404" itself is already clear to most visitors. In this regard, there is no need to convey them any complicated technical information. It is enough to briefly indicate the essence of the situation. This is how it was done on the website of the company "Stayer":
  • 3. Offer to check the address of the link. If users wrote the address themselves, they may well have made a mistake somewhere.
  • 4. Design a 404 page in the same style as the website. It is very important that the "broken" page was sustained in the style of design of the brand. Thanks to this, users will not be misled. On the contrary, they will treat loyally to what happened, then continue to interact with the web resource.

An excellent example - the website of the animation studio Pixar. The page depicts the hero of a cartoon known to fans of the studio. The inscription reads, "Do not cry. It's only a 404 error! What you're looking for may have gone into long-term memory."

  • 5. No spam. Visitors should be clear about what happened. Non-existent page should not be filled with a lot of links or banner ads. A small block explaining the situation, framed in the general style of the website will be sufficient. Many online stores are still debating whether to place popular products on the page 404. If the website is initially well structured, the product card or block of recommendations may look quite organic. For example, as on the website of Eldorado.ru:
  • 6. Humor will definitely not be superfluous. At many resources 404 page becomes the main platform for designers to express their humorous and creative ideas. Such a reception has a number of advantages. Thus, users will not be confused by the lack of expected content, and funny or ingenious block will help guide further action. The more creative the page, the more users will be deterred from closing the tab. Here are a few examples of creative error design:

The website of the game development company Blizzard jokingly blames the user that the page is "broken". This is evidenced by a tilted navigation "hider" and a broken screen:

Design service Crello reports that the page was stolen by pigeons:

We at our website send a cosmocot troop to search for the nonexistent page, which, it must be said, is doing a pretty good job!

  • 7. Add a search string. If the website is large enough, then the search can help visitors find what they want. This way they are even less likely to leave the website.
  • 8. The 404 page should be useful. Often, creativity is not enough. Care should also be taken of the user convenience. The best option - to give links to matches on the request. You can also put links to relevant or popular content on the page.

Emirates has done an excellent job of this by placing the 4 most popular buttons on the page: flight search, booking management, home page, and account login.

We show links to the main sections of the website on our 404 page:

  • 9. Place a bug report form on the page. The user should be able to contact website representatives if they want to. This way the owners will be able to learn about the deficiencies within the web resource, and visitors will appreciate the care and convenience.

Be remembered and stand out from the competition, you can even use such a little thing as a 404 error. It is necessary to make her a chip website. This will help to stick in your memory and raise the loyalty of your audience.

How not to make a 404 page?

In the pursuit of conversion, webmasters place many ad units on a page with an error. website owners who care about reputation and user loyalty, so do not do it exactly. Users react badly when instead of information they were looking for, you show them a block c advertisements or your own promotions. It doesn't look like you care about your customers. Rather, it looks like blatant exploitation.

Instead of advertising, you should make a simple navigator for the website. This way users will be more convenient to navigate, which actions to perform next.

The next point is the empty content of the page. The number "404" and the button back to the home page is not enough to retain users. The content should be useful.

Let's summarize all of the above. A properly designed 404 page should be:

  • without unnecessary graphics;
  • contain a link to the home page or show a navigation menu;
  • have a search form;
  • be in tune with the web resource;
  • form a clear understanding of the visitor that he had gone to a non-existent page;
  • contain creative elements.

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