The 404 error page is shown whenever a server is not able to find the specified page. Unfortunately, most users or the marketers think it as a technical issue and don't try for second time. Nobody considers 404 and give importance to it. But in reality, 404 pages have negative aspects if neglected and can affect your site performance badly.
Are 404 errors relevant to marketers and how to avoid the issue? Here are some considerations which can be implemented :
Controlling 404 :
We can control it but we can never eliminate the problem entirely. If you clean you internal link structure and make all relevant and proper links, even you can't make sure that people won't mistype your URLs.
You have a very narrow opportunity to control your URLs because other websites may have some links to your site. If you really want changes in other websites's backlinks then you have to contact every website owner to make their posts links up to date, which is indeed a tiresome job. But it is very embarrassing when your own internal links land a user to 404 page, which is in fact totally under your control.
How To Find Out 404 Pages?
So you have to fix the 404 issue and to find out which of your pages are currently showing a 404, you can either check your Google Webmaster Tools account or use a tool like 404 Checker. Here you have the option to check each of these pages and replace any internal links with a valid and relevant link.
There are some tools also which can be helpful in determining 404 pages, such as Screaming Frog, Link Sleuth etc. Using a browser extension like Check My Links which can be found in Chrome Web Store, you can quickly identify internal broken links.
But you have to find the source of broken links to fix this issue. Google Webmaster Tools is the best option for 404 errors and will help you not only find broken links, but the source of those broken links also.
SEO Practices On 404 Error :
301 Redirect :
Most of the website owners use 301 redirect to land the home page for their readers rather than showing them 404 error page. It can be a safe option but not the best one.
If you have a page on your website that is viewed by large number of viewers, comprises of relevant links and information, but due to some reason you've decided to remove the page. In this kind of situation you should use the 301 to redirect the search engines and reader to an alternative page with the same topic rather than home page.
External Links :
External links should be corrected at the source. So you should reach out to the website owners and ask them to correct the linking URL or suggest a replacement page which will redirect to your site's alternate page.
Showing 404 Page :
It's actually useful to show your visitors the 404 page. In case your readers who are returning to 404 and you want them to land to your company's website, you should return to a 404 page which will be helpful and informative.
How To Create A Good 404 Page ?
You can easily create a 404 page just like other pages you created for your website. If you create it for some positive purpose, you have to look into the following things:
1. Look And Appearance :
The page should look similar to the other pages you have in your site as if someone come to that page they should not think by its look that the page is not a part of your website. Keep viewers engaged into that page by giving information regarding your products and services so that viewers should not close the window leaving your site.
2. Content :
Some re-assurance statement and a good welcome message should be there in the page so that visitors can be redirected to other pages by the links embedded on 404 page.
3. Relevant Links :
With good content try providing the most relevant links or give them an option to search within your site. Giving relevant links would also help you to explore your products and offer services to your viewers.
Keep A Positive Approach :
The 404 page will appear only when a mistake has been made. Instead of being very careful, these mistakes will happen. But you have to keep your visitors engaged to your website. Take the whole responsibility and make required changes to avoid 404 issues.
You can always turn your mistakes into positive side like the companies who did this. Check out some innovative 404 pages here. You can also offer your visitors to play some space invaders.