404 page

What is a 404 page?

A “404 page” refers to the error page a user encounters when they try to access a webpage that cannot be found on the server. This error, known as a “404 Not Found” error, indicates that while the server itself is reachable, the specific page the user is attempting to access is not.

The 404 page serves a crucial role in both web navigation and user experience. Ideally, it informs the user that the page they are looking for does not exist, may have been moved, or was deleted. It also provides options to return to the home page, conduct a search, or utilize other navigation aids to find relevant content on the website.

Moreover, the 404 page can be customized creatively to reflect a site’s brand personality, potentially turning an otherwise negative user experience into a positive interaction. This approach not only helps in retaining visitors but also contributes positively to the site’s overall SEO strategy by ensuring that users and search engines find the site useful and navigable, even when specific pages are missing.

After a website relaunch, 404 pages often rank among the top visited pages due to unredirected URLs, particularly with moved PDFs being a frequent culprit. This necessitates a focused approach to URL redirection and testing, ensuring resources like PDFs are seamlessly transitioned to their new locations. Efficiently managing these redirects mitigates the surge in 404 page visits, preserving user experience and the site’s reputation.

Contrary to common perception, 404 errors are not inherently detrimental, either for users or for search engines. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem of the internet, marking discontinued products or content that should rightfully no longer appear in search results. In fact, a functioning internet and search engine system would be impossible without the proper use of 404 pages to signal the absence of content. Moreover, during a website relaunch, it is not mandatory to redirect every single page. Best practices suggest that pages without a direct replacement or clear successor should return a 404 error. This approach helps keep the web and search engine indexes clean and relevant, ensuring that users are directed only to existing, useful content and that the digital space remains organized and efficient.

Are there any best practises then it comes to 404 pages?

Yes, there are several best practices when it comes to designing and implementing 404 pages that enhance user experience and maintain site SEO integrity:

  • Preserve the Requested URL: The requested URL should not be redirected automatically to the homepage or another page without informing the user. This keeps the user informed about what went wrong and maintains the context of their original request.
  • Page Title: Include a specific marker, such as “404 Error Page” or “Page Not Found,” in the title of the 404 page. This is crucial for easily filtering these pages in Web Analytics reports, allowing website owners to track the occurrence of such errors and identify trends or specific issues that need addressing.
  • HTTP Status Code: From a technical perspective, it’s important that the server returns the correct HTTP status code, specifically 404 (Not Found), to the requesting search engine spider. This informs search engines that the page does not exist, which is essential for maintaining the integrity of the site’s indexation. Serving a 404 status code also prevents search engines from mistakenly indexing the content of a 404 error page as if it were a valid page, which could dilute the site’s overall SEO value.
  • Useful Content and Navigation Options: Provide users with helpful information on the 404 page, such as a brief explanation of why they might be seeing the error. Include links to the home page, search function, or popular resources to help users find alternative content. This helps improve the user experience even in the event of an error.
  • Design Consistency: Keep the design of the 404 page consistent with the rest of the website. This ensures that even when users land on an error page, they feel they’re still part of your website, which can help retain visitors.
  • Customization and Creativity: Use the opportunity to show some brand personality. Creative and humorous 404 pages can turn a potentially frustrating experience into a positive interaction, potentially increasing user engagement and loyalty.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Include a way for users to report a broken link or missing page. This not only helps the user feel heard but also aids webmasters in identifying and fixing problems more efficiently.

Implementing these best practices for 404 pages can significantly enhance user experience, improve site management, and maintain search engine visibility.

Does a 404 page matter from SEO?

Yes, in the context of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a well-designed 404 page can minimize the bounce rate by engaging users rather than letting them leave out of frustration. By guiding them to other parts of the site, the 404 page can help maintain the site’s credibility and usability, factors that search engines take into account when ranking websites.

What is the role of a 404 page in Global SEO?

For global SEO, the significance of a well-managed 404 page becomes even more critical due to the complex nature of international websites that often employ user redirection based on location or language. This redirection can occasionally lead users to a page that is not available in their particular location or language, resulting in a 404 error. Such scenarios highlight the importance of creating 404 pages that are not only informative but also capable of guiding users across different regions and languages back to relevant content on the site.

Furthermore, consulting 404 reports in web analytics tools is a routine task in the regular troubleshooting and ongoing optimization of websites with a global presence. These reports help identify broken links or incorrect redirections that might not be immediately apparent, especially in a multi-lingual and multi-regional setup. By analyzing 404 errors, webmasters can ensure that all users, regardless of their location or language, have a seamless experience. This attention to detail helps improve the site’s usability and search engine rankings, as it signals to search engines that the site provides a good user experience by actively managing and correcting navigation errors. Therefore, the strategic management of 404 pages is a crucial component of a successful global SEO strategy, aiming to minimize negative impacts on user experience and maximize site accessibility worldwide.

404 page examples of the most visited websites in the world

Exploring how the world’s most visited websites handle their 404 pages can provide a wealth of inspiration for web designers and content managers aiming to enhance user experience during those inevitable encounters with missing content. This overview showcases 404 page examples from top-ranking websites according to SEMrush’s list of the most visited sites in the world SEMrush Top Websites, excluding any adult-oriented content.

Google.com 404 Page
Google.com presents a rather minimal 404 page. The logo links back to the search page.
Youtube.com 404 Page
Smart move by youtube.com to embed the search slot into the 404 page.
Facebook.com 404 Page
Facebook.com comes up with a few reasons that are responsible for the display of the 404 page and three options for users to proceed.
Twitter.com 404 Page
Casual message on twitter.com shown to users that end up on a page that is no longer available.
Wikipedia.org 404 Page
Page not found message on Wikipedia.org.
Instagram.com 404 Page
Straightforward explanation on instagram.com.
Reddit.com 404 Page
The reddit alien looks confused on the site’s 404 page.
Duckduckgo.com 404 Page
Subtle message that resembles a form submission error on duckduckgo.com.
Yahoo.com 404 Page
Popular news bombardment on yahoo.com and a rather hidden error message.
Amazon.com 404 Page
Slightly irrelevant but cute nonetheless: An office dog greets users on the 404 page of amazon.com.
Weather.com 404 Page
Short error message and prominent links to relevant pages on weather.com.
Tiktok.com 404 Page
Brief and positive is the 404 message on tiktok.com.
Yahoo.co.jp 404 Page
Sad dog mascot to illustrate the 404 error page on yahoo.co.jp.
Whatsapp.com 404 Page
Creative 404 page on whatsapp.com.
Bing.com 404 Page
Plain one sentence error page on bing.com (blog section).
Openai.com 404 Page
The 404 page on openai.com is distinct but simple at the same time.
404 pages