Definition: The 404 Error Page (“Page Not Found”) is one of the most recognizable errors on the internet. You have certainly experienced it when you clicked on a broken link or mistyped a URL, and the website could not find the page that you had requested. Technically speaking, a 404 is the standard status code that is shown when a server cannot find the content that was requested.
As 404 errors can have a significant, negative impact on the user experience and search engine optimization (SEO), this article will explore why they occur, the impact, how you can identify them, and how you can resolve them.
A 404 response code can be caused by the user, an external website or your own website.
External Website, Email or Ad:
How do 404 errors affect your Website
404 errors can result in lost revenue
Traffic is critical for ecommerce revenue.
Generally speaking, Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Order Value (AOV) = Estimated Revenue
Given that approximately 74% of those who will encounter a 404 error will leave and never return, 404 error pages significantly impact your conversion rate and, in turn, your revenue.
404 errors result in a poor user experience
Not only do 404 errors make it more difficult for a shopper to find what they are looking for, they create a poor shopping experience. In a global marketplace, you not only need to have shoppers find your store and products, you need to convince them that you are a trustworthy source to purchase from. Errors on your site diminish the confidence the buyer has that you will properly fulfill their order in a timely manner with quality products.
404 errors will negatively impact your SEO
Besides losing customers when a 404 error is actually displayed, there are negative SEO impacts to having a high 404 error rate:
How to identify 404 errors
The first step to fixing 404 errors is to identify them. To do this there are several options:
How to greatly reduce 404 errors
To ensure 404 errors don't get out of hand, it is considered a best practice to regularly check for and fix broken links. When remedying 404 errors, there are three easy ways to classify them:
To fix 404 errors with a 301 redirect, you can manually create 301 redirects one by one in the Control Panel. You can also prepare a CSV file and bulk import it in the Control Panel. Alternatively, the Swerve Redirects app allows you to quickly fix 404 errors with 301 redirects in a single step.
Note: In some cases it may make sense to leave a 404 error alone.
How to improve the 404 error experience
It is inevitable that some 404 errors will be encountered on your site. However, there are ways of improving the user experience for those that encounter them.
Make navigation menu & search bar accessible
Be sure that your site navigation and search bar are available. This allows a shopper to continue their search for the intended page. While many will still leave, some may actually continue and find their own way.
Create a custom 404 page experience
Most 404 error pages offer the same bland experience. As important as this page is, it generally receives very little attention and effort. Consider creating a custom 404 error page to better engage the user.
Offer a promotion
Try to turn the negative experience into a positive one by offering a promotion or benefit of some sort. You might consider sharing a coupon code to convert what would have been a bounce into a customer.
Many thanks to BigCommerce Partner Inkblot Digital for their contribution to this article.