Ever since the first time I presented an Internet strategies seminar for radio stations, back in 2000, I’ve marveled at how few companies seize the opportunity to convert a potentially annoying Web visitor experience into a positive one. An enjoyable one, even.
What happens if someone mistypes what they think is a link to your website? Or, worse, when they click on a link on your site, and the link is broken? (That means, by the way, that it’s the fault of your website, not of your Web visitor.)
The odds are overwhelming that they receive a typical, soulless, “why should we care?” 404 Error Message.
I picked a radio station website at random and deliberately searched for a non-existent page. (I added “/uj” to the home page URL.) Sure enough, here’s where that led me:
I suspect most people think that error message is just somehow “part of the Internet.” In reality, it’s an element of that station’s website. When someone navigates toward a non-existent link on your site, you can present them with any message.
Why Did I Suddenly Think Of This Again?
Last week I was in Germany, and I tried to access my Gmail account. Oops! No Gmail in Germany. But look at Goggle’s error message:
We can’t provide service under the Gmail name in Germany; we’re called Google Mail here instead.
If you’re traveling in Germany, you can access your mail at http://mail.google.com.
Oh, and we’d like to link the URL above, but we’re not allowed to do that either. Bummer.
For general information about Google, please visit www.google.com or www.google.de
How cool is that?
They explain the problem.
They give you the solution.
They apologize for not being able to offer you a direct link.
And huge, monolothic, all-powerful Google adds, “Bummer.”
Meanwhile, what does your 404 error message say?
For the record, if you click on this non-existent link, you’ll see the error message people receive on my website.]