There are so many beautiful or funny 404 pages out there. But 404 pages can be so much more than that. In fact, they can be a flexible instrument — not just a notification that your visitors came to a page that doesn’t exist.
Moreover, this instrument can either turn into a lead or a subscriber generator! In ecommerce, each visitor is a potential win and costs you money, so you don’t want to lose any of them. It’s right to reduce the frustration caused by a nonexistent page with some cute design or a funny GIF, but what you really want is to transform this visitor into a customer.
The more backlinks and traffic you’re getting, the more products you have on your website, the more common 404 pages are going to appear. Why? Because with time your stock will change — some products or special sale pages will be removed and people will still try to reach them via the old backlinks. It’s hard to get rid of them completely.
Apart from finding the URLs that give a 404 page and fixing them, you should investigate how much traffic and who exactly is landing on them in the first place.
Google Search Console lets you see your 404 errors, but it doesn’t really give you that much info on the type of traffic. To know more, you should properly setup a static 404 page and track it as a separate page. This way you’ll be able to see GA metrics, such as the source of the traffic, behavior, and so on.
Now, we have a decent static 404 page which informs the customer that he or she has landed to a nonexistent page. Don’t stop there! Here are some methods to engage such visitors and to suggest alternative actions so they don’t leave the website.
Provide a coupon code
A coupon code on a 404 page serves you in several ways:
- Seeing a 404 page can upset people. Getting an unexpected coupon code might have a soothing effect.
- It gives them another reason to stay on your website, as a coupon code can be pretty influential when it comes to making a purchase or not.
Top tip on using the coupon code on your 404 pages
Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be a permanent solution or your customers will get used to it. If you’re not planning to offer this promo code forever, make sure to change it from time to time, or provide a small discount, or remove it if you see that the majority of your customers are making purchases with this code.
If the visitor clicked a link, they likely wanted to see something on your website, be it a product page or something else. Placing a search box on a 404 page gives your visitor the opportunity to search for what he or she needed.
Top tip on using a search box on your 404 pages
This element is very important. Your 404 page must contain a usual navigation header and a search box in it (like Etsy’s 404 page above). If you omit it on a page like this, it will be a total dead end for your potential customer.
Email subscription form
Simply suggest subscribing to your newsletter to hook up the visitor.
Top tip on using email subscription on your 404 page
Make sure you have a good reason for the visitor to subscribe. In the example above, it’s 10% off the first order. The rules are similar to any subscription box on your website — nobody’s going to subscribe just because you asked for it.
Navigating to the main page
There are two options to do this.
The first one is to provide a link to the main page.
The second one is to redirect the visitor to the main page automatically.
Top tip on redirecting your visitors to the main page from a 404 page
Make sure that your visitor understands what’s happening. See how Netflix explains the redirect in the example above? Just showing the main page without any explanation may be rather confusing.
Showcasing your main categories and features
Show some basic routes the customer might be interested in.
Here’s another example of a smaller ecommerce site. It’s a nice way to highlight the product categories:
Top tip on showcasing main categories and features
This method works well if your website has a significant amount of categories, pages, and features. Pick the most popular destinations and put them on the 404 page.
If you believe that the customer most likely needs your advice, provide the ways they can contact you from the 404 page:
Top tip on highlighting contacts on your 404 page
Use the most popular and easy ways of contacting with you. For example, some audiences prefer live chat while others prefer a contact form. Do your research and double check that everything is working correctly! Nothing is more awful than a broken contact form.
Modcloth placed a widget on their 404 error page: it suggests random products that you can like or dislike. If you dislike a product, another one will be shown. If you like it, you will be taken to its page. This is an example of a perfect engagement funnel.
Top tip on using gamification on your 404 page
A bit of fun is always good, but make sure you still have ways to direct your visitor to your products and services.
Suggest a demo or a trial
This one is especially good for online products and services. Raventools placed a form which directs a user to analyze their site with one of the Raven products.
Top tip on suggesting a demo on your 404 page
As with the subscription form, give a reason why the visitor should jump in.
This point is similar to highlighting categories, but bestsellers have more chances to attract a visitor. What’s more, here’s a nice example of how you can combine these blocks and use two or three of them to make sure at least something will catch a visitor’s attention.
Highlight social media accounts
This block is the one you can easily combine with any of the previous variants.
You can either give links to your social media accounts or add a widget for showing the latest posts from your social media accounts. Here we can see a clickable gallery of Langly’s Instagram profile.
Top tip on highlighting social media accounts on your 404 page
Make sure that the accounts you’re using in your widgets are up and running and that the latest posts or images look like something capable of catching the attention of your customer. Langly’s Instagram account is full of beautiful imagery shot in live, so they don’t need to worry — their Instagram gallery is perfect and catchy.
Last-minute tips for your multi-purpose 404 pages
- Make sure you have set up your 404 page correctly
- Try to fix all the broken links and set up redirects if necessary and only then think what you can do with your 404 page. Fix those 404 errors which have the most visits first. Apart from conventional tools for tracking 404 pages, such as Google Search Console, check if there’s a tool for your CMS. For example, there are plenty of WordPress Plugins, or a simple free Magento extension to regularly catch 404 errors on your site
- Identify the traffic you’re getting onto your 404 page
- Think which additional blocks will help these visitors find what they need
- Make sure all of your blocks are working correctly. For example, check if the contacts are valid and if the products shown on the page are available. Pointing visitors to a product that is not in stock will most probably discourage your visitor even more:
- Make sure that fixing the broken links and setting redirects is always your first priority in the future, and directing the rest of the traffic via your 404 page is the second one.
- For significant monthly traffic, even A/B tests for 404-page blocks will be of use.
This article was originally published by our friends at Klaviyo.