Error 404. 7 ways to turning an error into a hit.

How many times we are surfing the Internet and we can not search the site we have been searching for hours?

Sometimes is not posible to find what are searching. And when it happens on the Internet you find the 404 error or “Not found”.

Wikipedia 404 not found error page

At first sight this is an annoying experience. But at the same time, it is an opportunity to turn the error into a hit.

This pages use to be an underused resource, showing in most cases a standard error message.

Usually all the website is carefully planned, except the 404 error page, as it will be a minor part of the website.

So why continue using a standard and non useful 404 error page?

404 error pages are in most cases one of the most visited pages, so let´s use this error page to push our strategies. As we can change it at any moment, is it posible to addapt it to different purposes.

Let´s change the point of view and think on it as another resource to achieve the target.

If you are still using an impersonal error message in the following lines you will find some ideas and examples about how using the 404 error page can turn an error into a hit.

1.     Include a searcher.

Broken links, changed names or many other causes can make the 404 error page to appear. So why don´t offer a search box?

Users could use it to search through the existing content in the website. Users will get related content to their search.

A good chance increase time users spend on the website.

2.     Promote corporate content.

There is no bad opportunity to promote our contents, and the 404 error pages are a good one for it.

If you own a blog you can use it to promote your most read entries, your last entries… to get new suscribers to your newsletter or increase your Twitter followers.

But you can also promote your content in other platforms and different formats as video, pictures, podcasts…

An example of this way to make a clever use of the 404 error page is the Titleist´s error webpage .

Titleist 404 error page

3.     Being different.

Probably this is the most common use for 404 error pages.

Telling the same but in a different way. There are lot of examples in many different sectors.

Some funny examples are Cloquo or South Park.

Cloquo 404 error not found

4.     Entertainment.

In some cases users can be frustrated for the missing content.

Is the moment to give them something to release that frustration.

In Blue Fontain Media know it, so they offer a PacMan game on their error page.

Blue Fontain Media 404 error page

Or the company can use this webpage to tell a story as Blue Daniel does.

Blue Daniel 404 error page

Or Steve Lambert´s website is another example of that.

Steve Lambert 404 error page

5.     Know more about the users.

The more we know about the audience the better we can create content for them. Why don´t introduce a survey on our 404 error page?

Depending on our needs we can ask about our services, products or their preferences to get free quality information. Another way to get information to create new content.

6.     Customer service.

In some cases users can´t find the page, but they can be redirect to have contact with a person or a branch of the company.

An example of this is the Hilton Hotel´s 404 error page.

Hilton Hotels 404 error page

At the same time, the 404 error page can show other related products, links to social media profiles or the corporate blog, as My Bank does.

My Bank 404 error page

7. Public Service

There are other projects that use 404 error pages for public service iniciatives.

The Not Found Project is an iniciative that shows the picture of missing children every time the 404 error page is shown on your website. At the moment more than 3500 websites have joined them.

Not Found project

Proud errors follows the same idea. But for this startup they spread the word about many different causes from animals to sports.

 Proud Errors

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