This is my first blog post for 2012 and I wanted to take the time to talk about something that is often overlooked in SEO. In fact it’s something I didn’t really think about until recently. I’m talking about the 404 error page, the internal server error page, whatever you want to call it.. The page the pops up when someone types in the wrong link to visit your website.
Pages that don’t work because of dead links or spelling mistakes can look like this.
So what’s the point of this? Why am I spending the time to talk about dead pages? The simple answer is it’s not good for SEO. If someone wants to share a link with their friend and sends them a broken link, whats the first thing they are going to so when they see an ugly internal server or 404 error page? They are going to move onto something else, chances are they’ll bounce (this is bad).
What happens if you move some pages on your website, delete old pages and forget to redirect it? What happens if Google comes along and sees these old pages? You are going to be treated like a site that has dead links. We don’t want any links wasted, the way around this is to create custom built error handling pages that tell the user they have tried accessing a page that no longer exists. Sure you can have an error page that redirects the user to the main page, but that is confusing for the user. You want the user to know that they have accessed a page that is dead and help them find what they were looking for in the first place. It’s like having a second chance at maintaining a business-to-customer relationship.
Think of it in the real world. If you were a customer that walked into the wrong section of the shop what would you think if you were greeted with an ugly black and white sign saying you are lost and should turn back… That’s much like the 404 error page, nothing good can come out of this. If I was the customer and saw this I would be disheartened, and just presume the shop no longer stocks what I’m looking for. NOW what if you entered the wrong section of the shop and instead of being greeted with an ugly black and white sign, you were greeted with a nice friendly person informing you that you are lost, BUT we would like to help you find what you are looking for.
An example below of an awesome error page:
It’s perfect! It’s informative, polite, and useful! Don’t make the mistake of redirecting lost traffic to the home page as the user will get annoyed thinking that you are redirecting them for no reason, they will even try clicking on the link again and again thinking your website doesn’t work!
What happens when someone tries going to a section on your website that doesn’t exist? If this is something you have overlooked, think again, contact the person in charge of the website and get them to create a custom build error page.