One of the most common errors you can come across while on the web is a 404 or “Page Not Found” error.
That looks something like this:
I’m sure you’ve been hit with one of these suckers before. And as a user, these things are SUPER frustrating…but as a website owner, they can be even more frustrating because they usually appear on your website without you even realizing it.
Okay, but what IS a 404 page?
Technical answer: A 404 page is a page on your website that indicates to the user that they’ve reached the domain they requested, BUT the URL path provided no information.
(lol….wtf does that mean?)
Here’s what it is in normal language:
It’s an error that shows up on your website when a page that a user is trying to get to doesn’t exist. Typically from a broken link or from a user typing in a page name that doesn’t exist.
(Like your website itself exists, but the specific page they’re looking for doesn’t)
Normal Web Browsing:
You: I want to go to Facebook.com
The Web: Cool, I got it for you *takes you to Facebook.com*
You: I want to go to Facebook.com/mariah-is-the-coolest-human-on-the-planet
The Web: WTF. That’s not a real page. That doesn’t exist. I have nothing to show you…..so here’s the 404 error instead.
Here’s a good example of something like this happening on your website without you realizing it:
If I used to have a page for a webinar I was running, and the URL was mariahmagazine.com/websitewebinar — then I went and deleted that page after the webinar ended….BUTTTT I still have social media posts and Pinterest Pins that are floating around still linking to the page I just deleted. So if a person ends up clicking on one of those, and gets taken to the Website Webinar page…they’ll be hit with the 404 Error Page….because the page doesn’t exist anymore because I deleted that page.
BUT back to you……why should you care about this?
Why does your 404-page matter?
Having broken links that produce errors on your website is baaaad for user experience.
It’s frustrating for your users bc they thought they were being taken to a cool page, and now they’re being told it doesn’t exist.
That’s happened to you before, right? It’s so annoying.
And when it annoys your website visitors, it annoys Google.
So having broken links and 404 errors on your website could negatively impact your SEO…..big time.
So what can you do to fix this?
First things first, follow this tutorial that walks you through finding and fixing your broken links on your website: How to Find & Fix Broken Links on Your Website.
The free tool I walk you through will give you a heads up if you’re linking to a 404 page on your OWN website OR on ANOTHER person’s website (handy, right?!)
And then after you clean those links up on your site, you’ll want to create a custom 404 page for your own website, just in case a few broken links slip through the cracks or a user types in a page name wrong.
I know what you’re thinking: “Creating a custom 404 page? Seriously, Mariah. Sounds complicated.”
But don’t fret, I got your back on that one too!
Here are links to 2 step by step tutorials that I’ve created that walk you through setting up your OWN 404 page without knowing ANY CODE at all:
How to Edit/Create Your 404 Page on WordPress
How to Edit/Create Your 404 Page on Squarespace
And you definitely don’t want to skip out on creating your own 404 page for a few reasons:
- It makes for a better website experience for your user.
- Allows you to direct the users to other helpful pages, posts, and optin forms.
- It reduces the likelihood that the user will leave your website (aka reducing Bounce Rate — which is another thing that could negatively affect your SEO if you’re not careful).
- It makes you appear more professional and superrrr well branded.
- AND it and allows you to show off your personality a bit.