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How to Optimize 404 Error Pages for Ecommerce Websites

Last Updated on 07th Jun, 2024 | Ecommerce

how to optimize 404 error pages for ecommerce websites

Ecommerce 404 Page Optimization Guide

Optimizing 404 Error Pages is crucial for ecommerce sites, as a 404 error page is displayed when a user tries to access a webpage that no longer exists or cannot be found on a website. For ecommerce sites, 404 errors often occur when product pages are removed, product URLs change, or users make typos when trying to access product pages.

By optimizing 404 Error Pages, ecommerce sites can provide a better user experience, reduce bounce rates, and recover lost sales opportunities. An optimized 404 Error Page should give clear instructions for the user, offer relevant product suggestions, and include a call-to-action to guide the user back to the homepage or a category page.

While 404 errors are inevitable, having an optimized and well-designed 404 page is crucial for ecommerce businesses. 404 error pages that are not optimized result in a poor user experience, loss of leads and sales, and negative impacts on search engine optimization.

This comprehensive guide will provide ecommerce businesses with strategies and best practices for creating engaging, user-friendly 404 error pages that drive conversions and enhance SEO.

Overview of 404 Error Page

  • 404 error pages significantly impact user experience and SEO for ecommerce sites. Optimized 404 pages help retain and convert users.
  • Include product recommendations, customer reviews, lead capture forms, search boxes, helpful links, and branded design on 404 pages.
  • Leverage 404 data to identify and fix broken links, reduce future 404 errors, and improve site navigation.
  • A customized 404 page that aligns with the brand image is essential. To avoid dead links, use 301 redirects for URL changes.
  • Continuously optimize and A/B test elements on the 404 page to maximize conversions from site errors.

Why 404 Error Page Optimization Matters for Ecommerce

The Impact of 404 Pages on User Experience

When users encounter a generic “page not found” 404 error page, it interrupts their shopping experience and often results in them leaving the site altogether.

An optimized 404 page keeps users on-site and enables them to find what they’re looking for or discover new products. This results in a better user experience, even when a 404 error occurs.

The SEO Costs of Poor 404 Page Management

404 errors create “soft 404s” that search engines can’t properly crawl, leading to pages being deindexed and traffic loss.

Optimized 404 pages with redirects help avoid this. They also showcase alternative products, enabling search engines to continue crawling relevant site content.

The Bottom Line Cost of 404 Errors

A study found that 73% of users will leave a website after landing on a 404 error page.

For ecommerce businesses, these abandoned users represent lost leads and sales. A customized 404 page is the best strategy to reduce shopping cart abandonment, which encourages users to stay on-site and convert.

Common Causes of 404 Errors on Ecommerce Sites

common causes of 404 errors

Some key reasons shoppers reach 404 pages on ecommerce sites include:

Removed Product Pages

One of the most common causes of 404 errors on ecommerce sites is the removal of product pages. As products become out of stock or are discontinued, the corresponding product pages are often removed from the website. However, if the old product URLs are not properly redirected, customers who try to access these pages will be met with a 404 error. This can be particularly problematic for ecommerce businesses that have a large product catalog or frequently update their product offerings.


Imagine an online fashion retailer that often updates its inventory. Last season, they had a popular jacket, the “Autumn Breeze Jacket.” As the season ended, the jacket sold out and the product page was removed. However, the marketing team forgot to set up a redirect for the old URL. Now, when customers who bookmarked the jacket’s page or followed a link from a fashion blog try to visit the page, they see a 404 error instead of a helpful message directing them to similar products.

Modified URLs

Another frequent cause of 404 errors is the modification of product URLs. Ecommerce websites often update their site structure, product categories, or URL naming conventions, which can result in changes to the URLs of existing products. When customers try to access the old URLs, they are presented with a 404 error. This problem can be compounded if the site has a large number of backlinks or external references pointing to the old product URLs.


“An ecommerce site selling kitchen appliances. They decided to revamp their website structure, changing the URL of their popular blender from “example.com/blender-123” to “example.com/products/blender.” Unfortunately, they didn’t set up proper redirects. Now, food bloggers and recipe websites that previously linked to the old URL are sending their readers to a 404 error page instead of the product, leading to frustration and potential loss of sales.

Typos in URLs

User typos in product URLs are also a common source of 404 errors. Even a simple misspelling or incorrect character in a URL can lead to a 404 page. While some ecommerce sites may have implemented fuzzy search functionality or automatic URL corrections, many still struggle with this issue, especially for less popular or more complex product names.


“An online bookstore, has a complex URL for a specific edition of “War and Peace,” which is “example.com/books/war-and-peace-special-edition-2023.” A customer tries to type the URL manually but accidentally writes “example.com/books/war-and-peace-specail-edition-2023.” The minor misspelling results in a 404 error, and the customer can’t find the book they were looking for, potentially abandoning their search out of frustration.

Technical Issues

Technical issues on the ecommerce website can also contribute to widespread 404 errors. This can include web server misconfigurations, coding errors, or problems that arise during website migrations or updates. These types of issues can affect the entire site, causing multiple 404 errors across various pages and product URLs.


“Electro Gadgets” is preparing for a major sale event and has decided to migrate its website to a new server to handle the increased traffic. However, during the migration, a misconfiguration in the web server settings makes many product pages inaccessible, resulting in 404 errors. Customers trying to access various product pages during the sale encounter 404 errors, leading to a significant loss in sales and a flurry of complaints on social media.

Proactively monitoring and addressing 404 errors can help ecommerce businesses mitigate the negative impacts of these errors. By regularly reviewing site analytics, identifying the most common 404 error pages, and implementing appropriate solutions, ecommerce companies can improve the overall user experience and reduce the risk of lost sales.

Optimizing 404 Pages for Ecommerce Conversions

Crafting a strategically optimized 404 page allows ecommerce businesses to turn user errors into conversion opportunities. Here are key optimization tactics to boost 404 performance:

1. Provide Relevant Product Recommendations

Product suggestions are highly effective at retaining and converting users who land on 404s while browsing or searching for products.

  • Display top-selling or related products to match what they may have been viewing. This ecommerce personalization strategy can help tailor recommendations.
  • Include clear call-to-actions like “Browse Similar Products” to encourage further site navigation.

2. Showcase Customer Reviews

Social proof, such as positive customer reviews, helps instill trust and credibility when users land on unknown pages.

  • Leverage reviews from your top products or categories to build credibility on-page.
  • Redirect users to similar products with strong reviews that are relevant to their search.

3. Capture Lead Information

404 pages offer a prime opportunity to gather lead data like emails from interested users before they leave.

  • Offer an incentive like a discount code or free shipping when signing up.
  • Promote special offers that are available after submitting email addresses.

4. Incorporate Search Functionality

Enabling on-site search helps users immediately find what they’re looking for from the 404 page.

  • Allow 404 visitors to search your products from the error page.
  • Suggest related searches and terms based on their original intent.

Links guiding users to appropriate categories or resources help get them back on track.

  • Link to your sitemap, categories page or popular sections.
  • Provide clear contact info for customer support assistance.

6. Use Engaging Design and Copy

Maintaining brand consistency and engaging users reduces bounce rates from 404s.

  • Mirror brand imagery, tone and messaging used across your site.
  • Inject humor or creativity to delight users and humanize the experience.

7. Monitor and Analyze 404 Pages

Leverage 404 data to identify bad links causing repeat errors and improve site navigation.

  • Track top 404 page URLs to address underlying issues.
  • Review user behavior patterns on 404 pages via analytics.

Best Practices for Implementing 404 Page Optimizations

Follow these guidelines to integrate an optimized 404 page into your ecommerce website seamlessly:

Maintain a Custom 404 Page

Redirecting visitors to the default browser or server 404 page can severely undermine the overall user experience on your website. Instead, it is essential to create a customized, branded 404 page that aligns with the visual identity and branding of your ecommerce store. This custom 404 page should provide a cohesive and consistent experience, guiding users back to the right path and keeping them engaged with your website.

Utilize 301 Redirects for Moved Pages

As your ecommerce website evolves, product pages and URLs may change or get moved to new locations. In such cases, it is crucial to create 301 redirects that point to old or changed product URLs to their new locations. This ensures that any external links or bookmarks pointing to the old URLs do not result in broken links and 404 errors, providing a smooth and seamless experience for your visitors.

Regularly review your site’s crawl reports to identify bad internal links generating 404 errors. Promptly address these issues by redirecting the broken links to the correct pages or updating the links to point to the right destinations. Maintaining a well-structured internal linking system is essential for a robust user experience and optimal search engine optimization (SEO) performance.

Analyze User Behavior on 404 Pages

Closely monitor and analyze the user behavior on your 404 pages. Look at metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, and the number of clicks or conversions from the 404 page. This data can provide valuable insights into how users interact with your 404 page and where there might be opportunities for conversion optimization.

Continuously Optimize and Test 404 Page Elements

Regularly experiment and test different elements of your 404 page, such as the calls-to-action, copy, design, and placements, to maximize the conversions and engagement on these pages. A/B testing and iterative improvements can help you fine-tune the 404 page experience and guide users back to the desired actions, whether that’s prompting them to search, explore related products, or navigate to the homepage.

By following these comprehensive best practices, you can seamlessly integrate an optimized 404 page into your ecommerce website, enhancing the overall user experience, reducing customer frustration, and potentially even driving additional conversions from this often overlooked but critical touchpoint.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

  • Audit top 404 errors to identify root causes like out-of-stock products, outdated site links and technical issues.
  • Assess user behavior by reviewing heatmap clicks, time on page and bounce rates.
  • A/B test 404 page designs and content to determine what converts users best. Focus on product recommendations, reviews and special offer conversions.
  • Implement 301 redirects from old or changed product URLs to current pages.
  • Continuously refine based on 404 error monitoring, user analytics and conversion rate optimization learnings. An optimized 404 page is never “done”.

A customized and strategic 404 page plays a crucial role in providing a seamless user experience, retaining and converting users, and strengthening ecommerce SEO efforts. Use the actionable tips and best practices outlined in this guide to maximize the value of your ecommerce site’s 404 error pages.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with 404 Pages

When optimizing and designing 404 error pages, there are some common mistakes that ecommerce businesses should avoid:

Using a Generic 404 Page

The default browser or web host 404 page is not optimized for conversions and fails to represent your brand. Always implement a customized page aligned with your brand identity.

Failing to Identify Repeat 404 URL Patterns

Look for URL patterns, keywords, or product categories that generate frequent 404s so you can address the underlying issues.

Not Having a 404 Page Strategy

Without clear goals for conversions, branding, user experience, and CRO, your 404 page can’t drive results. Define success metrics and optimization priorities.

Overlooking User Behavior Analysis

Analyze scroll patterns, clicks, time on page and more to optimize navigation elements, product suggestions and CTAs on 404 pages.

Not A/B Testing 404 Page Variations

Continually test different page designs, content, offers and calls-to-action to lift 404 conversions over time.

Poor 404 Page Accessibility

Using features like color contrast, alt text, and ARIA tags, ensure your 404 page adheres to web accessibility standards.

Redirecting Users Away from Your Site

Redirecting users to your homepage or external sites upon 404 errors fails to retain them. Keep them browsing relevant products.

Final Thoughts

Optimizing 404 error pages should be a high-priority initiative for every ecommerce business. A well-designed, conversion-focused 404 page that is tightly aligned with your brand’s visual identity and messaging can significantly strengthen the overall user experience on your website. Rather than leaving customers frustrated and with nowhere to go, a thoughtfully crafted 404 page can actually turn these moments of site disruption into revenue-generating opportunities.

Ongoing refinement, creativity, and a data driven decision approach to 404 page optimization can yield significant dividends for ecommerce companies. By treating the 404 page as an integral part of the overall user journey, rather than an afterthought, businesses can turn what was once a frustrating experience for customers into a seamless, brand-aligned touchpoint that enhances the overall perception of the company and its products or services. Ultimately, a well-optimized 404 page can become a powerful tool in the ecommerce arsenal, helping to build customer loyalty, drive conversions, and contribute to the long-term success of the online business.