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404 Page Best Practices For SEO

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There is no such thing as a perfect website. Even well-performing sites experience hiccups from time to time, which prevents them from offering full function to website visitors. The best websites are the ones that constantly monitor and keep track of any mishaps in the website.

Errors are common, and website owners should maximise the persistence of these “Error 404: Page is not found” errors instead of giving into a panic. More common to a website visitor as a broken link, the 404 error page can indicate to people running large websites.

The challenge is now for website owners to fix the bug immediately. According to Northern Arizona University statistics, “88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.”

Most websites provide information, offer products, and become a marketing channel over the web. When visitors do not have access to a particular page, error pages can become the downfall of any website. All website owners are called to minimise any broken links, double-check helpful links, and secure web pages regularly to ensure that all SEO efforts reflect in the search engines.

What is a 404 page?

Google 404 Error Page

The most typical indication of a 404 page is a blank web screen that shows a “Page is not found” message. Websites showcase 404 messages when the site’s content is inaccessible or has complications in the server. For common web surfers, the error 404 indicates a website with broken links. The page may be lost or misplaced on the server.

In more technical terms, the page indicating a 404 error means that the browser communicates with a web server to gain access to a website or a web page. In response, the server could not find the specific page or website, or the server did not want to show the content of the requested information. Error 404 is also known as HTTP 404, 404 not found, or “page is not found.”

Can a 404 page be useful?

The existence of a 404 may sound daunting to site owners. Nevertheless, there are ways to maximise the “page not found” errors. All site owners or operators can turn error 404 into an advantage to improve key SEO efforts. More than an obstacle to a seamless surfing experience on the web, an error page is essentially a screen message that reveals broken links in websites.

Is a 404 error page helpful? Yes, website owners become aware of the pages acting as broken links. It is one way for owners to know the current condition and performance of the website. People running large websites are especially beneficiaries of Error 404 messages as a way to keep track of all web pages on the site.

Applying the right methods to maximise and fix the broken links is an entirely different story for these sites. Owners need to make an effort to transform the error pages into redirected pages to ensure no loss in site visitors over time.

Is it safe to keep?

The topic of safety and security often comes under scrutiny when it comes to error messages. It may look like the website is unsafe or lacks the proper safety measures and practices when the error message flashes on any relevant page. Error 404 can also give the impression that websites are under maintenance or, worse, malware attacks.

Technically, it is safe to keep an error 404, but there are downsides to not maximising the message and getting an urgent solution to the error. 

More than a safety issue, Error 404 messages can equal the following:

  • Lost revenue opportunities from certain web pages
  • Diverted crawl rate from the Google bots into errors instead of your high-quality content
  • Bad user experience for website visitors resulting in a negative impression of your website
  • Google Webmaster tools constantly monitor broken links and 404 pages for months and years, adding more records of client errors to the website log files

It is always in any website owner’s best interest to fix these broken links as soon as possible. The effect of Error 404 also includes behavioural changes in website activity. Owners should use Error 404 to evaluate or validate both internal pages and external links on the website. 

Seamless surfing experience often comes from the functionality of all web pages on the website. Nobody wants to lose visitors for good because of minor page glitches.


Woman fixing a 404 error

Best Practices

Say you are an individual who has set up a significantly large website in a while. How can you maximise and redirect the existence of an error in one of your web pages? 

Here are some of the 404 page best practice SEO for you to apply:

301 Redirection

Website owners can apply a redirection of the Error 404 page so instead of users staying in the Error page, they automatically land on a different URL. A 301 is a search engine guide to indicate that the URL has moved permanently to a different location. In response, the browser opens another web page.

For example:

  • When a user searches for Air Jordan shoes and the URL is an Error 404, a 301 Redirection automatically brings the user to a Shoes shopping page or a Shoe catalogue instead

“What’s happening?”

Error 404 messages can be a disarming alert because nobody understands what is happening behind the server. One thing that owners can do is explain the situation in a way that visitors can understand. Posting a message to break down the situation on the page helps visitors understand that the link is broken; however, there are no threats to security and safety. 

You can use the following statements:

  • “The page or the link you are trying to visit is not up to date or broken.”
  • “You are trying to access a page that does not exist.”
  • “Sorry, we can not find the page you are looking for.”

Add a Search Bar

Interactive websites have a lot of preemptive and intuitive features around the pages. Now that visitors are experiencing a dead end with a certain web page, adding a search bar to the page can help redirect these visitors. Instead of leaving visitors on their own, give them somewhere to go by providing a search bar with preloaded organic keywords on the site’s homepage.

For example, the website, shoesforsale.com, is a marketplace for shoes. Here are some things you can display in the search bar:

  • “Search: ‘red shoes'”
  • “Search: shoesforsale.com”
  • “ex: Season Sale”

Feature Products

The Error 404 page is the perfect opportunity to maximise some product placements on the site and pass link juice to other functional website pages. Place a photo of featured products on the page to fill spaces where the content should have been. Featured products also link to other relevant links and pages on the site.

Always attach attractive photos of the products to make the page more enticing and a potential revenue channel. The images can fill up spaces in the page to lessen any awkward empty areas that should have content.

“About Us”

One of the most basic web pages is the “About Us” page. The “About Us” Page is one of the foundational pages for every website. It provides background and context to the visitor of the website. It is a page that showcases basic website information such as people or teams running the website, company name, history, relevant links, and an overall go-to page for the site’s visitors.

When there are Error 404 pages, include links to the “About Us” page or a contact page to provide visitors with a way to exit the Error pages. “About Us” pages are helpful directories of other internal pages on the website.

Consider To Include Humor

Who says Error 404 pages are detrimental and a dead end to function? Make the Error 404 page a creative page that can provide entertainment value for visitors who may be experiencing frustrations with the nonexistent page. 

Here are some ways to increase creativity on the Error 404 page:

  • Add a graphic or design to the Error message that is in line with the brand of the website
  • Relay the error in a way that is creative (using website jargon or brand jargon) but does not complicate the message
  • Add a gimmick like a simple custom game on the error pages to lessen frustration from users and to give them time to reconsider other pages on the site

Page Design Inspiration

In line with being creative, owners can redesign the Error 404 page to match the brand theme and aesthetics. Error 404 pages DO NOT need to be boring and bland. There are still features and things you can add to the error page to turn it into a pleasing online space for visitors. Here are some of the best Error 404 pages around the web:

A 404 error page design for a generic company website in blue
A 404 error page design featuring a cartoon illustration of a man using a laptop
 A 404 error page design featuring a lighthouse in the dark


Large corporations experience the common Error 404 too. In online reports, tech giant Apple Inc. recently experienced the same error in its pages. The error caused some outages, much to the dismay of thousands of visitors, especially with the excitement around its latest iPhone model and latest iOS. 

The incident calls for maintenance or reevaluation of the website. Some reports even deem the error a hack on the tech giant’s website. Visitors who want to pre-order the latest iPhone model can not do so.

The main point for applying the best SEO practices for Error 404 is not for the benefit of the website owners. It is for the benefit of the visitors. Website owners should be responsible for being informative even if there are errors on the site.

The last thing you should avoid is leaving visitors and users directionless on your website. Leaving your visitors with nowhere else to go is one way to lose organic traffic, which can rank the site across Google’s search engines.

A 404 error page in binary code

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