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How to write a winning 404 error page

Today, we’re talking about the one page of your website that you hope no one ever sees:

The Dreaded 404 Error Page.

It’s that annoying page that pops up on a site when a link is broken or the page you’re looking for can’t be found.

And while we hope that our sites always work right and no visitor ever sees our 404 Error Page, it’s likely that at one point or another someone is going to run across it.

So, even though it’s not a high-traffic page on your site, you need to treat the copy on that page just like any other bit of copy on your site — like it has an important job to do.

You could actually be hurting your biz if you use the generic “Page Not Found” copy on this page. That’s why I always recommend customizing the copy on this page so it fits with your business and your brand voice.

Keep scrolling to see how custom copy can help your business and snag a peek at mine as an example!

What custom 404 Error Page copy does for your business:

It makes for a better user experience
Using custom copy on your 404 Error Page allows you to infuse your brand voice and personality onto the page. Instead of generic text, the visitor comes across another brand touch point that’s pleasantly surprising. This helps build a stronger relationship with your audience. A lot of purchases are made because a person feels like they like and know the person behind the brand.

It keeps users on your site for longer
Customizing your 404 Error Page copy allows you to post relevant links under an encouraging headline. An encouraging headline prompts your visitors to click a link and stay on your site. Including relevant links from your site helps guide your visitor to stay on your site and possibly leads them to what they were looking for in the first place. The longer someone stays on your site, the better they understand what you do and how you help them.

It increases Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Custom 404 Error Pages with relevant links and headlines help search engines catalog your site better, increasing your SEO. When your SEO is stronger, you’re more likely to be found through Google (or another search engine) by your dream clients.

It eases user frustration
We’ve all had those days where we stumble on a 404 Error Page and are, like, SO annoyed that we can’t get to what we were looking for. When I’m in that situation, I usually leave the website in a huff. A little note of apology in the headline in line with your brand voice and personality can ease this user frustration and then the relevant links can keep them on your site.

Check out my custom 404 Error Page:

Who would I be if I didn’t practice what I preach?

The first thing to note is that these pages do NOT have to be long by any means. It’s actually better if it’s shorter. No one wants to wade through a wall of text when they’re frustrated.

Other things about my custom 404 Error Page that work:

  • The custom headline that is on brand and makes use of my brand voice (I’m from Texas and say “Dang it” on the regular!). The custom words are surprising and more pleasant to read than the generic “Page Not Found.”
  • The custom subheadline encourages users to stay on my site for longer by prompting them to choose a link.
  • The links highlight some of the more important pages on my site and guide the reader on what are great choices for their next step.

If you work with me for new web copy, I include custom 404 Error Page copy as a sweet little BONUS.

Check out more info about my Signature Web copy package to get started!

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