HTTP 404 Errors: Marketing Opportunities? – Focus Friday

By Exclusive Concepts


One major rule of marketing is to constantly look for ways to market yourself to your target markets–and oddly enough an error page presents you with that opportunity, I will explain this thought throughout this presentation.

A 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code indicating to your shopper that the server could not find what they requested – in other words the page they were looking for was either deleted or moved.

No one wants to click on a broken link or stumble upon a deleted page. This is frustrating for everyone involved – the shopper may see your site as incomplete or faulty and you might lose a perspective customer.

When I see this classic 404 error I become annoyed, confused, and find myself wondering, why is this page not there – are they having issues?

This happens to everyone. Websites are constantly moving pages, growing and evoIving. I’ve seen this error message on many types of websites –whether it be a blog, news source, or online store. So why is an error message such a big deal?

Well, the issue is that all roadblocks – in this case the disruption is an error message – can cause discontent. From personal experience I know if I receive an error message I usually move on to another website or lose interest in looking for what I was shopping for. There are so many options online now that there is really nothing holding users back from going back to Google and searching again, in most cases there are multiple website where I can find what I am looking for. Plus there are so many distractions online – most times I get an error message I somehow end up getting totally re-directed and unfocused on my purpose, and I definitely don’t end up back on that site at least not immediately – unless there is something I REALLY REALLY REALLY want.

So, you can either take the chance that if an error message is to appear to one of your users that they REALLY REALLY REALLY want something on your website, or you can do something to prevent discontent and pique interest. Remember all those feelings of discontent I mentioned on the previous slide- how I was annoyed, confused, and contemplating if there was a problem with their website? I don’t feel those when I see this – this is funny, engaging, and now, somehow I don’t mind that I’ve been redirected – lets face it, it’s a cat fixing a computer – I know all of you laughed. The best part about this error message is that it is for a blog called CatsWhoCode – they are marketing their brand and appealing to users. So lets learn more about the marketing opportunity that error pages have for your online store.

You and I know this isn’t a huge deal , error messages happen– however it has the potential to be very positive – why not appeal to customers whenever you can.

Error pages on your site are prime marketing real estate. How can an error be an opportunity? Let me tell you.

  1. This person is on your website – they are obviously within your target market as they are interested in your products.
  2. An Error page is a page on your website with no distractions – you basically have a blank slate – as long as you state there is a 404 error you can design it to your specifications and take the tone you want to
  3. Price – its on your website – it’s a marketing opportunity you essentially don’t have to pay for
  4. If done correctly you can create positive feelings toward your brand and word of mouth that will draw other people to your website – and most importantly bring the user that was re-directed back to your page

So I have a solution – which is becoming more and more popular and thanks to , I have many examples of how other websites have customized their error page instead of just using the standard one that everyone hates.

Feature your product or message – this error 404 message is from a Star Wars costume website- they do a great job of appealing to their users

Make it a joke – blame the user – this blog creates a play on their names “Spinning Plates” and essentially tells the user they broke the internet

One of my favorites is from LuluLemon – they provide a search box for you to look up what you were looking for when you became lost – they also make me laugh by saying the user could have “Internet too hard”

The North Face does a great job of still appealing to their target market and engaging the user by telling an elaborate story about how a goat at the page

Main takeaways I hope you take from this?
Never miss an opportunity to make your website more appealing, more memorable, and a standout from your competition.
A customize error page is an easy way to accomplish all three – and if your site is going some changes this may be a useful trick to help encourage recall and patience with your customers.