5 best ways to optimize your website’s 404 error page

The default error 404 pages are the classical examples of the most unpleasant user experience.

I personally dislike the 404 standard error web page like anything. Not only it looks ugly but also resembles standard bounce rate, which is most likely to reduce the number of recurring visitors on your website or blog.

However, you might just be missing a trick or two by leaving the 404 error page to its original standard state, since you can anytime plan, and plan well, to not only prevent this undesirable spike in bounce rate but to creatively optimize the page to your good cause of increasing conversion. 8

Here’s a close look at some out-of-the-box ideas to optimize the 404 error page for increased conversion:

  1. Use user-friendly language

Put first things first: avoid jargon and complex technical terminologies, use simple human language instead.

Novice and not-so-tech-savvy people are most likely to feel awkward with an error message proclaiming “404 Error”, since they do not actually understand what it reflects or means. All that they understand is that they didn’t get results for their query. On top of that, the standard 404 error page only adds to their frustration.


Hence, here’s your best bet: replace the default error page with something interesting or easy to understand.


  1. Page is not available.
  2. Oops! This link isn’t working.
  3. Oh dear, something is wrong.                                                                                                                                               Take it easy and accept your fault

Avoid using sentences or words that look you’re blaming them as it can frustrate them even more, since it is certainly not their fault. Instead accept your mistake and apologize, your visitors will most likely understand and appreciate.

Here’s one really unique example of this. The email center UK, on 404 error page, not just accept their fault by, interestingly, gives you an opportunity to penalize one of their colleagues.


In this case, instead of fuming out the visitors will enjoy the blame game, and consequently the website bounce rate will reduce significantly.

  1. Inform the users of the possible reasons

Everyone loves being informed about new things. Rather than posting a lackluster technical statement or an inexpressive sorry, you may well go with explaining the user, the possible reason behind what went wrong and what caused the error.


Some possible examples:

  1. URL is incorrect.
  2. Error in copy-paste
  3. Link is broken.
  4. Link is truncated.
  5. Content moved.
  6. Content deleted.

Here’s a classical example by Hootsuite:

  1. Provide immediate solution

Users hate a 404 error page the most since it’s more like a tunnel with dead end. There’s neither light nowhere to go. The best measure to enhance user experience is by providing them an instant solution.

For instance, you can request your users to assess if there’s some mistake in the link they typed or perhaps offer them suggestions with a link closest to what they typed.


Brett Terpstra provides a list of posts carrying the key words included in the requested link; have a look:

Remember to hyperlink the suggestions as it will straightaway take the user to a working page, thence adding to a pleasant user experience.

  1. Help them find what they are looking for

Here’s one more influential way to circumvent the deadlock. Provide them a way to search your website to find the information that matters to them.


You can add the options given below to your website’s 404 error page:

  1. Navigation menu
  2. Link to homepage
  3. Sitemap link
  4. Search bar
  5. Popular posts
  6. Popular products

With a gentle apology, the Hustle urges its user to simply return home: