Page 404 best practices: how to squeeze the most out of a dead end


Stumbling upon a 404 page is not the end of the journey

Would you have failed if your users ended up on a simple 404 page HTML instead of a functioning one? Do you fear they will jump off your website immediately? Imagine the bounce rate. Horrifying.

Does it have to be that way, though? No! There are a whole variety of reasons why the search may result in 404 pages, but it doesn't have to be the final destination. This is an opportunity to implement clever SEO and marketing and redirect users somewhere fun. Well, more fun to them than a broken blank page. More beneficial to you than just watching them leave through statistics. You'd hate to see it.

Let's figure it out, then. Why do 404 pages occur, how to handle them, and what use will they bring to your business? Starting from the beginning.

Why does a 404 page pop up?

What is a 404 page? This type of page appears when a web server cannot find the requested page. The reasons for this happening can vary, though:

  • The page has been deleted. If a page has been deleted from a website, any links that previously led to that page will result in an error.
  • The page has been moved. If a website has been reorganized and a page has been moved to a different location, any links that still point to the old location will result in a 404 error.
  • The URL is incorrect. If a user manually types in a URL, they may make a mistake, resulting in an error.
  • Server or network issues. In some cases, a page 404 may pop up from server or network issues preventing the delivery of the requested page.
  • Broken links. If a website links to external content that has been moved or deleted — oh, look, a 404 page.

Why do you need to design a cool 404 page

Here’s a real question: do 404 errors hurt SEO? Yes. Such pages can be harmful if not handled properly. When a user encounters a page 404 error, it means that the server was unable to locate the requested page. Search engines interpret this as a sign of poor website maintenance. That’s never a good sign.

Google, or any other search engine for that matter, wants to deliver the most relevant and high-quality results. Guess what happens if a website has many broken links or pages that lead to page errors? Your website can get marked as not well-maintained or lacking quality content, leading to a lower ranking in search results. Nobody wants that, of course. That is why developers, testers, and marketers search for broken links like hawks. Eliminate major weak spots as early as you can.

Realistically though, you can’t control everything. Errors can and will occur, not even necessarily on your end, as we saw in the list above. Some users just ask for the wrong address. Some pages you linked to a year ago simply disappear from existence. How do you keep track of all that?

Do not despair, though. There are ways to minimize the negative impact of page 404 errors on SEO. One way is to create a custom 404 page. It should either provide helpful information to visitors or direct them to other relevant content on the website. Preferably even both. Also, it should look great — as great as the rest of your website. Visitors will stay engaged with the website, and you will reduce the bounce rate. Now we’ve turned lemons into lemonade.

Particular reasons you should have a custom page 404 error on your web:

  • Helps retain visitors. When users encounter a page 404 error, they may be discouraged and leave the website. A helpful and informative custom error page can encourage users to continue browsing your website. The bounce rate is reduced!
  • Improves user experience. Great 404 pages are designed to fit the website's branding. Such a solution will improve the overall user experience and make prospects more likely to return to your website.
  • Prevents lost traffic. Without a custom design, visitors who encounter an issue may assume that the website is broken or not functional, causing them to leave it entirely. A custom page can help prevent lost traffic and encourage visitors to explore other parts of the website.

Another great way to minimize the negative impact of 404 errors is to use 301 redirects. It’s a permanent redirect that sends visitors from a broken link to a relevant page on the website. This can help preserve the traffic and backlinks associated with the broken link or the deleted page, a positive factor for on-page SEO.

In short: creative web design and strategic redirects are your tickets to prevent the website from sinking into the dark depths of search results. Use it wisely.

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Check your website for 404 pages with these tools

Now that you know the importance of the HTML 404 page, you’ll need a way of identifying them. Manual search is no fun in this case — there are plenty of more important things you could be doing. There are several ways to check your website for page 404 errors:

  • Google Search Console. Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor and optimize their website's performance in search results. In the Coverage report section, you can see if Google has detected any page 404 errors on your website. Quite straightforward.
  • Broken Link Checker. There are many free online tools, such as Broken Link Checker, that can scan your website for broken links, including links that lead to error page HTML. Pick one to your liking, and it will provide you with results. 
  • Manual Check. Well, it may not be fun, but you can’t say it is ineffective, right? You can manually check your website for page 404 errors by clicking on every link on your website to see if it leads to the correct page. Not the best way of going on about things with large platforms, of course. But hey, if you are a proud owner of a simple and concise website, go for it! Checking your product yourself is always a good idea, after all. 
  • Site crawlers. There are several site crawlers available, such as Screaming Frog and Sitebulb, that can crawl your website and identify any page 404 errors. These tools can also provide additional information about the broken links, such as the page's HTTP status code, the linking page, and the anchor text.

So many options. Which one to choose? We, for once, recommend using Dead Link Checker.

Dead Link Checker is an online tool that allows you to check websites for broken links, including links that lead to page 404 errors. The tool scans the website and identifies broken links, providing detailed information such as the HTTP status code, the linking page, and the anchor text.

Using Dead Link Checker is as simple as it gets: all you need to do is enter your website's URL and click the "Check" button. The tool will then crawl your website and generate a report of any broken links. The report can be downloaded in several formats, including CSV, Excel, and HTML.

In addition to identifying broken links, Dead Link Checker also provides additional features:

  • Link validation. Check whether the links on your website are valid. 
  • Sitemap validation. Check whether your sitemap is accurate and contains all the necessary pages.

Dead Link Checker offers both a free and a paid version. The free version allows you to check up to 2000 links per website, while the paid version provides additional features such as unlimited link checking and daily email reports. The free plan should cover most of the needs.

Make it convert with these tips

A 404 page can be an opportunity to engage with your visitors and turn a negative experience into a positive one. Here are some tips on how to make your 404 page convert:

  • Keep it on-brand. The best 404 page ever has an index, look, and performance quality corresponding to the rest of the website. Your 404 page should reflect your brand's tone and style and use the same design elements as the rest of your website. This will help visitors feel like they're still on your website and reassure them that they're in the right place.
  • Apologize and explain. Let visitors know that the page they were looking for can't be found, and apologize for the inconvenience. Offer an explanation for why the page is missing, such as a recent website redesign or a technical issue.
  • Provide useful tips. Offer visitors helpful information that can direct them to other pages on your website. For example, links to your homepage, popular pages, or a search bar to help visitors find what they're looking for.
  • Add personality. No one likes a default 404 page. A little bit of humor or creativity can go a long way. That’s your cue to let them know you are not a robot. You’re human. Your brand reflects something unique about you, your business is run by people. Treat your visitors like guests. Add some humanity to save an error page from being an impersonal blend mistake.
  • Use calls-to-action. You can use your 404 page to promote other parts of your website or encourage visitors to take specific action. Offer to sign up for your newsletter or to follow you on social media. It doesn’t have to be something everyone does, just something that makes sense in your case.

Being resilient and inventive is an integral part of any business. Turn accidents into opportunities. Create a 404 page that is unique and provides helpful information. Make it reflect your brand, and offer a positive experience. In this way, you will turn a negative situation into a potential conversion.

Create a 404 page with Webflow like this

Webflow is a low-code website builder that allows you to create custom websites. You can even use a 404 error page template.

Here's a short guide:

  1. Navigate to your project in Webflow and click "Pages" in the left-hand menu.
  2. Click on the "404" page in the list of pages, or create a new page and name it "404".
  3. Customize your 404 page by adding text, images, or other elements. You can use Webflow's built-in design tools to create a layout that matches the rest of your website.
  4. Add helpful information to your 404 page, such as a message apologizing for the missing page and links to other parts of your website.
  5. Publish your 404 page by clicking on the "Publish" button in the top right corner of the Webflow editor.
  6. Test your 404 page by entering a URL that doesn't exist on your website. You should be redirected to your custom 404 page.

Webflow also allows you to set up redirects so visitors are automatically redirected to a relevant page on your website. To set up a redirect, click the "Page Settings" button for your 404 page and then select the "Redirects" tab. From there, you can create a new redirect by entering the old URL and the unique URL you want visitors directed to.

Get inspired by these creative solutions

Creating a creative 404 page is a fantastic solution for several reasons:

  • Positive user experience.
  • Brand consistency.
  • SEO benefits.
  • Sharing potential.

Check out these creative pages to get inspired to create yours:




20th Centuary Studio

Anton and Irene






A 404 page will happen, and it will happen for different reasons. Technical issues are on your side to find and fix, but for users that input nonsensical requests into a search bar, you better have a cool 404 page to entertain them with.

Here are the main points to take into account:

  • A customized 404 page is essential for any website that wants to be successful.
  • A well-designed 404 page will provide helpful information and maintain brand consistency. Something every user can appreciate.
  • A bad case of 404 errors can sink your SEO. But if you put enough care into optimizing your website and creating a custom 404 page will reduce bounce rate and improve SEO when implemented correctly.
  • Design a 404 page that will engage visitors. Make it creative! If someone likes your page as much as shares it on social media, then hey, it can even attract new users that got curious. Not something to bet all your marketing budget on, but no harm in considering this.
  • Customizing your 404 page is a simple but effective way to improve the user experience — an excellent reason to take your time with it.

Now that you know how to make a 404 error page for your website, it’s time to put them to use. And remember, if you'd like to have a helping hand on your development and marketing journey, just shoot us a message. Our team is always ready to help with Webflow web design services.

Good luck!


What does a 404 page not found mean?

A 404 page not found error means that the webpage requested by a visitor cannot be found on the website. It is typically caused by broken links, incorrect URLs, or deleted/moved webpages.

How to make a 404 page for your website?

1. Create a new webpage and title it "404" or "Page Not Found." 2. Add helpful information, such as a search bar or links to other pages on your site. 3. Keep the design on-brand and engaging for visitors. 4. Test the 404 page to ensure it displays correctly and provides a positive user experience.

Do 404 errors hurt your SEO?

Generally, 404 errors do not hurt your SEO if they are occasional and not excessive. However, if your website has a high number of 404 errors, it can negatively impact your SEO by reducing user experience and indicating to search engines that your site may not be well-maintained.

Do 404 errors hurt your SEO?
Do 404 errors hurt your SEO?
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Generally, 404 errors do not hurt your SEO if they are occasional and not excessive. However, if your website has a high number of 404 errors, it can negatively impact your SEO by reducing user experience and indicating to search engines that your site may not be well-maintained.

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