Anytime you visit a website, you run the risk of a 404 error, an error where the page isn’t found. We’ve all seen it, whether we realize it or not. But as a blogger, are you making the best use of a 404 page? Today, let’s talk about building a custom 404 page and why it’s a super useful marketing tool as a blogger. Every day, you run the risk of losing potential audience members when you don’t have a custom 404 page set up, so let’s talk about how to set it up and what you ought to include on it.
1. What’s your 404 page?
A great way to figure out what your 404 page is to type in your website’s domain, followed by something simple like “/1234” or “/error.” You want something you know doesn’t exist. So mine would be “https://gingerandcoblog.com/error” to get my 404 page. Because I’ve already built mine, it doesn’t look like the typical 404 webpage on a WordPress site.
Your’s probably looks like a long list of hyperlinks, right?
Well, that’s normal. Let’s talk about what you need for an effective 404 page.
2. What do you need to include?
Think of your 404 almost like a “start here” page. Especially as you’ve built your blog up and you have people coming in from social media every day, at some point, a link is going to break whether on your end or not.
So your 404 page is a place to introduce yourself to new readers, which is why I’ve got a little blurb about myself. Give people the chance to know a little more about the ginger running the blog, and I even take time to introduce myself as Laura, not Ginger, as everyone thinks my name is. I cover a little bit about what this blog covers, invite them to visit the “about me” page and I move on.
It’s short and to the point.
After that, I invite people to join the newsletter, which I will start back up at some point later this year, I hope. This page will probably see a lot of traffic and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to invite people to join. I’ve really neglected my newsletter this year even though I know better. So what better way to grab new people than invite them to join? I haven’t checked to see how the page is converting for me, but I suspect at some point, it’ll be a high converter.
After the sign-up box, I provide new people a place to browse through categories they might be interested. I’ve covered a lot of topics in the almost five years, so picking just four topics to highlight was hard. I thought about the topics I still like to talk about – even though my college posts still do really well, I’m not in college and have no reason to talk about it, so I didn’t include that.
Now, once you know what you want to include, it’s time to actually build the page and set it up.
3. Building Your Page
Lately, I’ve been using this plugin, Elementor, to build out pages. I used it for this 404 page, too. I love that it gives you the building blocks to drag and drop aspects of a page in (Kimi Kinsey has a fantastic post about how she uses Elementor templates to build landing pages). I don’t use it on blog posts, but I love using it build static pages.
If you aren’t a fan of the WordPress editor that comes built-in (at the time of this post, Gutenburg has not seen its official release yet, but it’s coming), I highly recommend Elementor for your pages.
Once you install it (as a plugin), you’ll be able to add things to it and build out pages. I love that this plugin makes things like columns so easy to achieve. Getting those four spots for the categories at the bottom of that 404 page? Using coding, that’d be a little bit of a nightmare for me. All I have to do is drag, drop, duplicate each column and input my data and it’s done.
4. Now, how do you make this thing official?
Once you’ve built your 404 page, you have to tell your website what page should be your error page. After you save your page, and you can really name it whatever you want (mine is named “oops”). Now, to set this up, some themes will have a built-in customization to direct your 404 page to the correct page. Mine at this time does not, so I had to add another plugin. I’m using this plugin, 404page, and it was super easy to set up. I set it up and now anytime someone puts a wrong link in that directs to my site, you’re greeted by my face (I do apologize), but I was able to set it up and be done with it.
But, why do I need a 404 page, Laura?
Fantastic question. For a lot of reasons. A custom 404 page allows you to control what people see, and considering people are going to stumble into an error (it’s unavoidable on the internet), you want to make sure you have the best chance to impress them. A custom page will let you make a better first impression than a long list of links.
Building a custom 404 page allows you another opportunity to point people to new content or old content that still hauls butt for you. Building a custom 404 page allows you to do whatever you want to that page and offer something special to the people who stumble there.
So, if you haven’t, it’s time to build a custom 404 page and start impressing people just a little bit more.
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