Error 404: Sorry You Can’t Find What You’re Looking For

We have all relied on that familiar GPS voice to guide us, turn by turn to our destination. But what happens when that same anonymous voice deceives you? In my car, it usually goes something like this:

Turn right.


Turn right.

–There’s no road.


–There’s still no road.

Recalculating… Make a u-turn.

–Where the *%$# are you taking me?

Yes, I do talk back to my GPS, and no, I’m not always nice.

Think of your site’s navigation as a GPS. You are guiding your readers through your site from start to finish. But what happens when u steer them to a dead end… the dreaded 404, or page not found, error.  It’s bound to happen, so think through it. A generic “sorry, this page cannot be found” is a missed opportunity to reel your readers back in before they click that tiny “x” in the corner. Take a minute to strategize. You can take the scenic route and steer them back to more of your content. Or, you can be witty or joke about it. Either way, leave an impression that reflects your brand’s personality.

So, what do you do?

  1. Check it out – Do you know what your current 404 page looks like? You can see it by typing in a web address on your site that you know does not exist, like
  2. Strategize – Are you currently missing the mark? Think of this as an opportunity and think about how you want to approach it? Do you want to be helpful and reroute them back to you content or do you want to stand out and leave an impression?
  3. Revise – Rewrite the page content and personalize it to your brand. This is your chance to buck up and admit that yes, this is an error page, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the end of your web relationship.
  4. Make the Change – Ask your site administrator to make the change before you lose another visitor into the 404 abyss.

At first glance, web interaction may not seem personal. You are, after all, engaging with your readers through a screen. But that doesn’t make it any less of an interaction between your brand and your reader. Don’t turn into that anonymous GPS voice that whispers “make a U-Turn.” Be human, show readers that sometimes, a wrong turn can lead you right back where you want to be.

photo credit: Off the map via photopin (license)

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