Why do you need a 404 page?

Pages not found is a common error that users encounter. If you enter an incorrect address on a site or follow a non-existent link (for example, when you deleted a link, but it remains in the search results), a standard HTTP response code will appear - Not Found or “Error 404”. The unknown is scary, so most users will want to immediately close the page and leave the site.

Therefore, you can’t leave it like this:
A properly designed 404 page will help the user understand what happened and what to do next, keep them on your site and improve SEO performance.

Why do you need a 404 page?
Everyone needs their own 404 page design for several reasons:

There is always the possibility of an accidental error, for example, when a person entered the wrong address, did not find what he was looking for, and as a result left the site disappointed.
If a site has many pages, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of the relevance of all addresses. For example, some section was deleted, and somewhere the address was changed to improve SEO.
Undesigned 404 pages, from which users cannot navigate to the main page, reduce search rankings. Therefore, implementing a proper 404 page design is very important for SEO.

How do 404 errors affect SEO?
Technical errors prevent search robots from correctly indexing the site, and users from interacting with the site. People leave the site, the number of failures increases, and negative experiences with the product appear. The user closes the site and goes to competitors.

As for the search results, the search robot - crawler spends time (which is limited, this is called the “crawler budget”) crawling non-existent pages, as a result of which the visibility of the main content is reduced.

When maintaining a website, it is very important to monitor pages that return incorrect codes. Identification and elimination of errors is included in the technical audit program and search engine optimization activities. It is also important to find out, using special web services (for example, Yandex.Webmaster or Google Search Console), where the broken links come from. 404 errors can also be the result of a competitor attack.

Best Practices for Creating a 404 Page
A good 404 page design will tell the user what's going on and keep them on your site.

Explain what's going on

Report what happened and why. As a result, people behave more calmly and are less likely to leave the site. There is no need to go into technical details. There shouldn't be a lot of content on this page, and the words "404 error" are already a term most users will understand.

Return the user to the site
Provide a “Return to Home” link so you don’t lose your potential client. You can also place a menu, search or link to the Help section. This way the user can choose where to go next. The page will be useful as it will help you find the information you need.

Save the style of the site
If the 404 page lacks a header and footer, and the design itself differs from the general design of the site, then users simply will not understand where they are, will decide that they are in the wrong address, and will leave the site.

At the same time, you can make the 404 page interesting and creative to reduce negativity and distract the visitor with humor. People will also remember images that are witty and on-topic and will remember your brand later.

Ask to report a bug
Invite the user to inform you of the problem. For example, you can add a button to report an incorrect link. This way you can quickly find out about technical problems of the site and show the person that you care about him. This will increase trust and show that you are open and approachable.

So, a 404 page is necessary on the site, like any other section. Choose the right tone of communication, create a recognizable design and competent navigation so that visitors stay on your site.
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