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