404 error pages are typically served to the website user when the user attempts to follow a broken or dead link. A 404 error (Page Not Found) is often returned when pages have been moved to a different location or deleted. It is always better to handle moved files or URL changes using 301 redirects instead of 404 pages. You can customize your website’s 404 error page with proper content than the typical “Page Not Found” message. But when you add extra features to 404 error page care should be taken to avoid extra loading time and other problems. There are few things you need to consider while designing your 404 page.
Key points and best practices to be considered while designing your 404 pages
Avoid Soft 404
It is not a good practice to return a standard web page with a “200 OK” response code when there is a 404 error. This is called soft 404. As per SEO standards a 404 page should return a 404 Status Code. If 404 pages return a 200 Status Code then most of the Search Engines considers this broken link as a valid resource, and the 404 page ends up in the search results index. This will not add any value to the website or to the user. It is always better to avoid soft 404 strategies.
Avoid advertising of any kind in 404 Page
404 pages are intended to load fast. It is always better to have static 404 error pages. Advertising modules normally involves service calls. If a 404 page has advertising modules or dynamic content then if the requested resource is not returning in a timely manner may lead to loss of platform integrity. Also serving advertisements in 404 pages may not yield any significant gain. This is because the number of 404 page impressions will be very less and will eventually drive down overall ad yield due to very low click-through rates.
Avoid Displaying Search results in 404 P
Some people use automated scripts or widgets to load search results in 404 error page. This sometimes proves dangerous because the search can end up in the search results, which themselves may return 404 error pages. This may not be good for search engine bots and they may blacklist your site,
Create customized 404 Pages
You can create smart 404 pages instead of service “Page Not Found” text message. Opt for the same layout and colours used in your main pages. You can add menu links to the major sections of your website. Your 404 page should offer a way for the visitor to re-engage with your website. You can also include a set links that points to the most popular pages or articles.
You can also add a search option in your 404 page. This will helps the user to search for the page or article they are looking for.
Make Sure 404 Error page is light-weight
Always make sure that the 404 page loads faster. Avoid widgets that make external calls. This will make the page loading slow. As we mentioned earlier avoid advertisements in 404 pages. Give the visitor a way to find interesting alternate content from the site.
404 pages should be designed to inform users that the resource they clicked is not available but they can still find your other content.
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