Even the best maintained web sites will have “dead-ends.” A dead-end takes many forms. The most common is referred to as the “404 Not Found.” You may see it listed as “page not found,” “HTTP 404 Page Not Found,” “server not found,” “no results,” or simply an error message.
If you have a business web site or even more importantly, an e-commerce web site, bumping in to a page not found can leave the visitor a bit disheartened and, if purchasing, a bit concerned.
What causes a 404 dead-end is typically a broken link. Possibly, you have changed the link address of a page, but a search engine is still pointing to an old address. Or, maybe you have removed a page entirely.
What often happens when visitors reach a 404 dead-end is that this is the point at which they leave your site. If you want the visitor to spend some time at your site or purchase products, obviously this is something you want to avoid.
There are ways to fix this situation relatively easily. One of the “dashboards” or tools offered by Google Analytics will tell you at what point most people leave your web site. For general purposes, if you see a trend, such as a specific page that seems to be the jumping off page, best take a look at that page and see what’s going on and if something needs to be changed.
However, what it will also show you is if they leave after encountering a 404 Page Not Found. With many web sites, such as WordPress templates, a “redirect” plugin is available. Install the plugin, copy and paste the URL that leads to the “404” and replace it with a correct, functioning link or link back to your home page. With this redirect, at least the visitor will stay on your site.
Another option is to have the redirect go to an options page. For example, say you have a blog and you intentionally deleted a posting. A search engine directs a visitor to your deleted posting, but instead of a “404,” the visitor is redirected to a list of your most popular blog postings. The visitor may get interested in another post and forget the 404 ever happened.