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How Error Pages and Redirects Make Your Website More Sustainable

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Sustainable Web Design Series No. 11

Make your content more findable by using customer friendly error page and appropriate redirects. It’s an SEO best practice, that will also make your website greener.

Findability is a term that describes how easy or difficult it is for a person to find content they are looking for, both through search engines and for those searching within a website. The more findable information is, the less unnecessary steps a person has to go through to find what they need.

Fewer pages browsed means that fewer server requests are being made, fewer photos and multimedia files are being loaded. You end up with happy customers who are using less energy because they are browsing a website efficiently. That matters because it takes a lot of electricity to power the web—both the servers that deliver content and the devices that we surf the web on—and because most electricity comes from sources that aren’t renewable, or clean.

Create Customer Friendly 404 Error Pages and Use Permanent 301 Redirects

Two ways to improve the findability of content on your website is to make customer friendly 404 error pages, and to use appropriate redirects. Both help create a positive experience for your customers, and sure that you don’t waste any of your website’s finite SEO budget—or any extra energy—on broken or useless pages.

404 Error Pages

404 Error Pages are displayed when a customer tries to access a page that doesn’t exist on a website. This may be because they have clicked on a broken or bad link. A best practice for 404 error pages is to create a page that is both friendly, and which helps direct the user to an appropriate resource.

screenshot of foursquare can't find page search result page

A great 404 error page helps direct people to find the content they need. This example from Foursquare.com includes a friendly message, cute graphic, and a search box that helps you find what you were looking for.

Broken Links

On a monthly basis, use Google or Bing Webmaster tools or another link-checking tool, to check for broken links. Correct any broken links to minimize 404 status code errors on your site.

Avoid 302 Temporary Redirects to Serve Error Pages

On a technical note, you should avoid using 302 temporary redirects to serve up a 404 error page. The correct approach to serving an error is to immediately serve the 404 error page. For a more detailed explanation of different types of redirects and what they mean, read SEO Moz’s guide to Redirection for SEO.

Use 301 Permanent Redirects

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to a different URL. It’s important to take the time to create 301 permanent redirects when you change a URL. This is handy in a variety of situations including:

  • You’re rebranding
  • You’ve archived some content that’s out of date
  • You’ve merged several pages into a single page
  • You’re cleaning up your URLs so that they’re shorter and optimized with keywords

I hope that this discussion of error pages and redirects helps you make your content more findable, more SEO-friendly, and a little more energy efficient. Make sure you leave your best tips for error pages and redirects in our comments below.

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Mightybytes is a full-service digital agency in Chicago and a certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or fill out our contact form.