Everyone has experienced one of these at some point in their browsing lives. You click on a link and up it pops: 404 Not Found.

But what exactly does it mean?

The most common trigger for an error 404 message is when the website content you are trying to access has been removed or moved to a different URL.

However, it could also be that the URL was originally written or typed into the browser incorrectly.

It’s frustrating though, isn’t it?

Naturally, you don’t want visitors to experience this when they click on a link on your site.

The best case scenario is they go back to your site and continue checking out what you have to offer. Worst case scenario, they leave your site, never to return.

Thankfully there are ways in which you can stop 404 pages from occurring on your site.

Keep reading to discover what they are . . .

1.     Carry Out Regular Function Testing

If you don’t know what function testing is, then you should definitely keep reading as this is a vital step in the ongoing maintenance of your website.

Companies that carry out function testing such as digivante.com, can ensure that your digital platform works exactly how you want it to. They can help prevent issues such as 404 pages, inappropriate redirects, incorrect filter results and limited platform optimisation — all of which can dramatically lower your overall conversion rates.

These types of services should be seen as an investment in your business, as they can optimise customer experience exponentially as well as increase your overall conversion rates.

2.     Try to Identify Any Broken Links Yourself

There are several free tools available that can help you find any broken or dead links within your website. Although, this can be time-consuming, and ideally needs to be carried out at least once a month, or even once a week if you have a particularly large site.

Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Google Search Console: this will help identify any 404 errors that have been found by a Google crawler
  • Dead Link Checker: this handy tool can help you find both internally and externally linked 404 pages. You can either check an individual webpage or your entire site
  • W3C Link Checker: unfortunately, this is a particularly lengthy service, but it does have the advantage of being very thorough.

3.     Make Your 404 Pages Work for You

If you are fed up with trying to locate and fix 404 pages, then why not make them work for you instead?

One of the ways you can do this is by turning the page into a search box. Create a message along the lines of “Sorry, this isn’t what you are looking for”, and then simply add a search box below to redirect to your site.

This is a great way to reduce your bounce rate and keep your site visitors happy. A win-win for all involved.

Although 404 pages can be annoying, it is important to remember that they occur on all sites, and that Google understands this. You are not going to see a massive drop in traffic to your site just because you experience one 404 error.

The most important aspect to remember is that you want your site to appear well-maintained to both search engines and to your site users, and that means ensuring visitors are able to find the content they are looking for.

However you choose to achieve this is up to you.

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