To understand what a developer does when setting up, 404 Error Page Setup and Optimisation. It is beneficial to fully understand what are 404 Error Page’s and why you need one set up and optimised.
A 404 page, or error page, is the content a user sees when the browser reports a non-existent page within your website this can occur when a there is a bad internal or external link to your website. The 404 page is the default page your webserver serves when it can’t find the URL requested by the user.
What your custom 404 error page setup and optimisation archives
404 errors generated by the server are usually unbranded and don’t provide any information beyond a generic “error has occurred” message. Furthermore, they devalue the overall marketing performance of your website.
Creating a custom 404 page with helpful links and ideally a search bar will
- Retain users on your website as it will reduce the bounce rate
- An opportunity to keep people engaged with your site.
- Provide users with a positive resolution serving new content choices when encountering a 404 notification
- Helps in maintaining consistent branding across all your site’s pages.
- Attract external attention for your brand if you do a good enough job
What your 404-page won’t do
Pass link juice.
Link juice is the term used in SEO to refer to the value (or equity) passed from one page or site to another. This value is passed through hyperlinks and search engines see these links as votes of confidence that your content is valuable and worth promoting.
Search engines don’t index pages which return a 404 status. This means they aren’t assigning any value passed by links that point to pages which return a 404 status.
When Not to Use Your 404 Page
There are times when you don’t want to serve a 404 page to a user who requests a page that doesn’t exist. These include pages which:
- Contain important external links or are cornerstone content that holds a lot of links
- Pages which receive a large volume of inbound traffic.
- Have an obvious URL that the user/linker is trying to reach.
In these scenarios it is better to replace the entire page rather than rely on redirects
Furthermore, with this information in mind, it is best practice to replace, pages that get a lot of links, visitors or conversions in order to preserve SEO value rather than relying on redirects.
In these situations, it makes more sense to add a permanent 301 redirect in order to send users and link juice — to a more relevant and useful page.
Remember, though, that the destination pages you use for your redirects need to be legitimate replacement content. If you’ve got 404 errors for these types URLs, ideally you’ll have replacement content for these pages anyways since they are probably your website’s most important pages.
Creating Your 404 Page
In conclusion when creating 404 pages, the approach depends entirely on the flavour of the CMS website.
- For those using WordPress, 404 page is a highly-recommended plugin.
- For Drupal sites we recommend the search404 module