Increasing customer engagement with custom 404 error pages

If you’re the owner of a large website with lots of content, you’ve probably noticed that up to 10% of your traffic ends up on a “webpage not found” error page due to broken links or misspelled URLs. There are a lot of reasons users who visit your site might reach a 404 page, but how do you keep those customers from abandoning your site?

Today we’re announcing the Web Page Error Toolkit, a customizable web application that extracts keywords from the error page response and uses them to issue a query to Live Search or other search engine. The results are then shown in a custom error page that can actually help your user find information they need.

This Toolkit was born from necessity; our friends at Microsoft.com were looking for help in keeping customers who hit a 404 page for broken links or misspelled URLS engaged. In their case, they often see users searching for an address like http://www.microsoft.com/ XBoxHalo, hoping they’ll find information about the Halo game for XBox. The only problem is that this page doesn’t exist, so users get the default “We’re Sorry…” page and reach a dead end.

But thanks to the Web Page Error Toolkit, all www.Microsoft.com page errors are now redirected to search.microsoft.com, using parts of the original URL as the search term.

Now you too can download the Toolkit and use it to provide even tighter integration with site content management systems, or define your own logic to interpret 404 requests.

For example, prior to June, if you typed in http://www.microsoft.com/XBoxHalo you would have received the following error page:

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But using the Toolkit, the site owner could create a custom 404 error page like the one below:

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This customized page leverages the search results to create a richer experience that keeps your customers on your site while giving them the type of content they’re looking for.

As a Toolkit user, you have a wide choice of parameters to customize, from the look-and-feel to the sites to include in your search. Most importantly, you can easily provide your own implementation of the keyword extractor interface provided. And we were careful to ensure that the proper status codes are returned on 404 (and other error pages). In addition, Meta tags are used to prevent search engines from indexing the error page or following the links.

If you run a website and would like to use the Toolkit, learn more at http://dev.live.com/blogs/livesearch/archive/2008/06/02/WebPageErrorToolkit.aspx.

Give it a try and be sure to let us know what you think at our forums.

–Jeremiah Andrick, Live Search Webmaster PM

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12 comments
  1. Anonymous

    Nice tool,

    Should help many webmasters to keep their visitors at their site. I use php and for every misspelled url or unreachable address it gives automatically a 404 error but within the site template.

  2. Anonymous

    Excite tool! I will try out your tool.

  3. Anonymous

    I always came to read good topic here. I have to learn a lot!

  4. Anonymous

    That’s a good tools for SEO.Learning….

  5. Anonymous

    Thankyou for all your help!! This is an excellent tool!! :-) I will try it out and reply with the results!!

    Cheers all

  6. Anonymous

    What is the difference between the linking the pages in our own website. Like:

    just abc.htm

    and

    http://www.magical-nepal.com/abc.htm

    I am waiting for my solution…………….

  7. Anonymous

    I actually find pages like this to be a bit sterile and confusing. I’d much rather a friendly, welcoming page redirecting me to someplace I may want to go, or something fun and silly.

    I created an interesting 404 page for my own site that is friendly, and will email me hen people access it, to let me know how they got there.

  8. Anonymous

    I use custom error 404 page for my sites, which I hand-coded. What it does is print out the requested URL and notify the web surfer that the page doesn’t exist, before redirecting to the homepage. But it doesn’t offer any further assistance in helping to search the requested URL.

    I will take a look at Web Page Error Toolkit and study it to know how I can integrate it into my already-existing site search, using parts of the requested URL as the search term. I’m excited about this finding.

  9. Quality Directory

    I develop custom error pages for all my sites that output the requested web page and inform you that it doesn't exist. I'm still working on integrating it with my search utility.

  10. karadagli_61

    very thanks for article

  11. kaptan

    Thank you very nice deli

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