Improving Your Website’s SEO with a Well-Designed 404 Page

Laura Ferruggia
May 19, 2023
6 min read

You’ve likely seen a 404 page while browsing the internet; this page displays when another page on your website cannot be found.

A custom 404 page signals to users that you want to help guide them to the right place to answer their questions.

It can also help demonstrate to search engines that you care about providing a quality user experience and that you actively update and maintain your website.

In this article, I’ll share the specifics behind creating a 404 page and why it’s important for your SEO strategy.

Table of Contents

What is a 404 page?

A 404 page is the page that a user sees when they try to access a page on your website that doesn’t exist.

It can occur if you delete or move a page without properly redirecting it.

Or, it can result from user errors, such as typing a URL incorrectly.

Your website will already have a 404 page by default, but these generally provide a poor user experience.

Not only do they appear outdated, but they do not provide a path for users to find what they need.

We recommend creating a custom 404 page for your website so you can establish consistency and increase user engagement, like this example from our creative gallery.

Miles IT gallery 404 page

Though it is sometimes overlooked, a custom page helps users know they are in the right place.

How can a custom 404 page improve my website’s SEO?

graphic of a woman with a headache using a laptop

Taking the time to design and write a helpful 404 page actually benefits your website’s SEO.

It can improve the user experience on your website and signify your commitment to keeping content up-to-date.

For instance, if a user encounters a broken link or mistypes a URL, they can become frustrated and leave your site.

They likely won’t want to spend much time browsing if it’s too difficult to find what they need.

As a result, this can increase your website’s bounce rate, demonstrating to Google and other search engines that your content doesn’t answer users’ questions or help them find what they need in a timely manner.

On the other hand, if you have a helpful 404 page that provides users with options to continue browsing your site or find what they need, they are more likely to stay on your site and continue engaging with your content.

Besides improving the user experience, a well-designed 404 page can also help search engines understand your site better.

Remember that Google values websites with high-quality content and an excellent user experience.

Therefore, if search engines crawl your site and encounter broken links or missing pages, they can interpret this as a sign that your site is not well-maintained.

As a result, they may be less likely to rank your website highly in search results.

If you have a custom 404 page that provides helpful information and links to other pages on your site, however, search engines will see that you actively manage your site and provide a great experience for users.

Your 404 page can also help improve your internal linking strategy by ensuring Google’s spiders can find and crawl all of your relevant web pages.

What should a 404 page include?

Ideally, your 404 page should align with your website’s branding and guide users to the right content for their needs.

404 Page Design

The design of your 404 page matters to let users know they are still on your website and in the right place.

It should create a unified user experience by incorporating core company branding and design elements.

It shouldn’t create disconnect by incorporating new colors, fonts, styles, or other details; this could make users question if they’re still on the right site.

Your design should align with that of your other web pages to establish cohesion and familarity.

404 Page Content

Most 404 pages include phrases like, “This page cannot be found” or “We’re sorry, this page does not exist.”

Messaging like this is important to let users know that there has been an error in accessing the content.

It can also be valuable to include ways to guide users to the correct path via your 404 page.

For example, our website’s 404 page features a link to our contact page and a search function to directly connect them with existing pages that can answer their questions. 404 page

Including direct ways to help the user accomplish their goals can help reduce frustration and encourage them to explore your site further.

How can I find 404 errors on my website?

Although you should have a custom, well-designed 404 page on your website, your goal shouldn’t be for users to find it.

It’s much better to have them find the right content for their needs immediately instead of seeing an error page.

However, as we’ve noted, mistakes can happen.

While you can’t prevent users from mistyping a URL, you can use tools like Google Search Console and Screaming Frog to find 404 errors on your website.

For instance, if you deleted a page but didn’t redirect the URL to an existing page on your website, your 404 page would display.

GSC and Screaming Frog can help you locate these errors so you can implement the proper redirects and help users find the pages they’re looking for.

The Takeaway

Creating a custom 404 page is an excellent way to optimize your website for both users and search engines.

By taking the time to customize this page, you can direct users to the right content for their needs, demonstrate your commitment to website maintenance, and boost your website’s SEO.

Overall, while it may seem like a small detail, having a well-designed and informative 404 page can positively impact both the user experience and the SEO of your website.

Meet Laura Ferruggia

Laura Ferruggia

Laura joined Miles IT in 2014, and in her current role of Marketing Strategy Director, she leads and supports our amazing and multi-talented team in providing high-quality consulting and services. With experience spanning from content writing to web development and paid advertising over 9+ years, Laura is equipped to take a holistic approach when discussing marketing and website solutions with businesses.

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