If you’ve been on the Web very much at all then you have probably seen this 404 page. This is the default error that Apache displays when you try to go to a page on a website ( URL ) address that does not exist. Regardless of what type of website it is, business or personal, it doesn’t matter.
What should not be found is what you see below.
A websites 404 page can be an asset if it is designed correctly.
Virtually every web platform has the ability to produce a nice useful and relevant 404 page and you should not neglect building it. In WordPress there are quite a few plugins both free and paid that you can use. SquareSpace, Wix and the others generally have an easy way to add a 404 Page.
Take a look at this 404 page.
Hopefully you went to it. There are several key elements that need to be included.
Most importantly your 404 page should have the same overall look as the rest of your website. A lot of people just go for some links much like a html sitemap. However, I think you owe it to your users to give them a better experience. My logo, menus and side bar are the same as most of the pages on my site. You should try to do the same.
Be sure to communicate to your visitors that they are in fact on your site and that they are on your 404 page. Give them some direction as to how they can navigate to the correct page. Additionally, you can use your 404 page as a capture page. If you are offering some type of giveaway and using that to build your list the make that the second objective of your 404.
Making sure that you treat your visitors to a custom 404 page not only gives them a better experience but it also helps as far as your ranking factors. Bounce rate as well as the time on site are important and Google looks at these metrics. If your bounce rate is high and time on site is low then the search engines consider that you site is not relevant to the user. Custom 404’s help in this area. Also keep in mind that if you are doing any PPC with AdWords both bounce rate and time on site effect your Quality Score which can lead to your ads being displayed less and your CPC can be higher.
The other thing that you should do is to look at your 404 logs from time to time. If you are getting a lot of 404’s or if you see a change in the number of 404’s in a short period of time then you should be checking your inbound links. You may have some that are broken and broken inbound links will loose the equity ( link juice ) that they carry.
So be sure to customize your 404 page. It will be good for your site and good for your visitors as well. And really it is just the right thing to do.