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AP 0273: How Do I Optimize My 404 Page?

AP 0273: How Do I Optimize My 404 Page?

By Pat Flynn on

AskPat 273 Episode Transcript

Pat Flynn: What’s up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 273 of AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me today. There are thousands of people listening with you right now and I appreciate you all so much. You are amazing.

We have another great question today from Bartek, from Warsaw, Poland. I am one-eighth Polish, for those of you who didn’t know that … quarter Irish, eighth Russian, and half-Filipino is the full mix.

Before we get to that, I do want to thank today’s sponsor which is, a super-easy-to-use cloud accounting solution that’s going to help you organize your business finances. Over 5 million small businesses are using it right now, and you can too. I did, and it is something I only wish I got started with sooner. So, you can check ’em out. You can get a free trial for 30 days if you go to and enter “AskPat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. You gotta check ’em out, seriously. They got a cool app to go along with it too, so you can check your business’s status and finances on the go, as well.

More about that later, but now let’s get to today’s question from Bartek.

Bartek: Hi, Pat. This is Bartek from Warsaw, Poland. This month, me and my wife started a new site for parents, teachers, and everyone interested in child psychology and development at The domain name we are using now was used few years ago by someone else running a parenting portal. I looked into Google Analytics; I found out that we are getting some volume of traffic from other sites linking to that old content. What should I do with it? Now they are just getting 404 error and probably bouncing, but maybe I should try to attract this audience to my site. Our content is quite different. We are making interviews with authorities and the old site was just advice site, but the target audience is similar. Should I try to convince these people to stay on my site although I don’t provide exactly the content they are looking for? Or is it just a waste of time? Thanks! Goodbye.

Pat Flynn: Bartek, thank you so much for the question today. I appreciate it, all the way over there from Poland. I’ve never been, but I hope to get over to Europe some day. I’ve never been to Europe. How crazy is that? Anyway, this is awesome, and for everybody out there who had heard you pronounce your domain name, I’m not even going to try to pronounce it, because it’s in Polish, obviously, but it is spelled R-O-Z-M-O-W-Y-O-D-Z-I-E-C-I-A-C-H dot P-L. Yeah. Anyway, this isn’t about your domain. This is about what happens when people come to your domain from old websites and old links, linking to old stuff, since you sort of picked up this domain from somebody else from the past, who had it for a somewhat different purpose.

The question was, should you focus on those people? So, you’re getting a large volume of people coming to these older parts of your site or trying to get to your site, but they are being met with a 404 error. The biggest lesson here for you and for everybody, is that you should absolutely optimize your 4 or 4 page. I don’t know why I said it like that. You should absolutely optimize your 4 zero 4 page … Because, now or later in the future, just like what’s happening with Bartek’s site right now, there’s going to be people coming to your site that aren’t going to be met with the page that they expected. That page may have been deleted, or maybe something happened and it’s just broken; the link is not there anymore. You’re going to get a load of people landing on your site, but not on the page they expected. They’re going to land on a 404 page. That’s not good, because when they land there, typically a 404 error will say something like “Sorry, not here” … And that’s it. You really have nothing else to do. If you optimize your 404 page, and I’ll tell you about the things you can do to optimize it, what happens is people land on that page and they go, “Whoa … This is not what I expected, but now I’m interested in what else this site now has to offer. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but maybe I can through this, or here are some other articles that have captured my attention and now I’m going to go here.”

So, what am I talking about? Well, let’s give you some examples. Let’s go to<bangingmyhandonthekeyboard>. I do that so just random letters come up, which means I get a 404 error. It says the following: “That’s odd. We can’t find what you’re looking for. I’m sorry, the page you’re looking for is not here. Please use the search function or the links below to find what you were looking for.” So, here on my page, there’s a lot of different ways to do this. This is the way I’ve chosen to do it right now, but it’s not just a dead-end. It’s a way for people to say, “Oh okay. What I was looking for was not here.” I do get a lot of people every day coming to this page. I know, because I keep track. Hundreds, actually. That is a result of links being broken or people … I mean it, this might not even be your fault. For example, say, somebody is linking to your site, to a blog post that you’ve written. They got the root domain right, but then the end part of that web URL is wrong, or maybe a letter was missing. Well, they would go to your site, but not that actual page ’cause they misspelled it or mistyped it. They would land here. So, here for instance, on<slammyhandonthekeyboard>, you get to a search box, and then under that, it says popular posts. The Backlinking Strategy That Works, Niche Site Duel 2.0, books from 2014 I’ve read more than once, so on, and so forth. Then they also can see the categories and tags and things that I have on the site that can help them look and find what they’re looking for, or at least find something else that might be interesting. What I would recommend is, if you have the ability to find out what people are searching for on Google, which you can often do, if you have Google webmaster tools, for example. We used to be able to do this in Google Analytics, but not as much anymore because there’s that, you know, if you’re logged in, there’s privacy there and you don’t necessarily see all the keywords that people are searching for to find you anymore.

Whatever the case may be, if people don’t find what you’re looking for, what you can do is let them know that, that’s the case so they aren’t searching for it right now. You can tell them what else they can do from that point forward. So, have them look through a search bar, and there are some plug-ins you can use to put search bars on your website, in certain spots within your posts as well, or you can just copy whatever you might have in your sidebar and put it there as well, if you know a little bit of code. I would recommend putting your popular posts there as well. Of course, I would also recommend—this is something I don’t do, although I sort of do it in the sidebar. I say, “Hey, my name is Pat, and this is what the site’s all about.” I do that in my sidebar, you could see a little name tag there it says, “Hello, my name is Pat Flynn. I’m a father and a husband who supports my family with passive income from online businesses. Click here to see what works.” That works, or you can just have this page that they land on, again your 404 page, be a quick introduction “Hey, what’s up? This is my site. Not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but this is what I do. If you’re interested, here are some popular posts.” You can say, “Here are the most recent posts.” If you have a podcast, “Here’s a podcast episode you can listen to. You can follow me on Twitter and tell me what you were looking for, and maybe I can help you.”

There’s a hundred different things you can do, but the point is, you have to have a way for people to continue on through your site and your brand when they land on that 404 page. So, you might want to brainstorm and think of what you can do to help people out who land on that page, whether they’re people who find you looking for the old stuff or people who are looking just through your existing content and end up on that page. It’s really important. Let me find some other 404 pages that might work well. So, let’s try<hand on the keyboard>. Ruh-roh, that page doesn’t exist. This is not what you were looking for, but here are the most popular posts for you below. So … And there’s a search bar too. So, that kind of goes through the same thing. Let’s try<a bunch of random letters>. All right, not found: “The page you are looking for no longer exists, but here are some recent posts and categories to choose from.” Okay, so it keeps you on the page. That’s decent, that’s good. The one that baffles me is, because I’ve done this one before, is<random keys>. It says, the page I land on says, “Google, 404. That’s an error. The requested URL slash randomness was not found on the server.” That’s all we know. That’s it; there’s nothing you can do. Google, come on. Get it together. Put a search bar on this page. Why wouldn’t you do that? Anyway, even Google doesn’t get it right sometimes. I mean, they get it right not a lot of times, but they do a lot of things right, obviously. They’re very helpful, but anyway, point being, 404 page, please optimize it.

So, Bartek, hopefully that gives you some ideas. At least put your most popular posts there. I would probably benefit from putting my “Getting Started” page on there as well. So, you have a place on your website for people who are just brand-new visitors. Chances are, people landing on this page are also going to be brand-new visitors. So give them as much information as you can there to get them interested in what you have to do. The more they can click around, the more they’re going to be interested. If, you know, people from these other places and sites land on your site, and it wasn’t what they expected, and they don’t want it? Well, then, that’s fine. That’s fine. At least, they’re not leaving because it’s a dead-end. They’re leaving because they see what’s available, and it’s not for them and then they go. They can go on with their day. You can go on with yours.

So, Bartek, I hope that answers your question. Thank you so much. An AskPat t-shirt will be headed your way, so look out for an email from my assistant very soon, within the next week or two, to help get you set up with that. For those of you listening, if you have a question you’d like potentially featured here on the show, all you have to do is head on over to, and you can ask right there from that page.

I also want to thank today’s sponsor, which is They are really cool, because if you have any sort of invoicing that you do in your business, they make it super easy and professional-looking. So, you can get paid and continue doing what you need to do. So, if you are a coach, or you maybe have clients or you’re a consultant for companies, just makes invoicing super easy. It’s all connected together with your accounts and things like that. So, money coming in, money going out, especially ’cause tax season is coming up. Do yourself a favor: check out FreshBooks for free for 30 days. Go to and enter AskPat in the “How did you hear about us?” section.

Awesome. Thank you so much for listening in, and as always, I’d like to end with a quote. Today’s quote is from Charles Darwin, and he says, “In the long history of humankind, those who learn to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” How good are you at collaborating and improvising? Hopefully, you’re top-notch. Cheers, take care, and I’ll see you in the next episode of AskPat.

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