What is Google's 404 Page?

T hose within the SEO and website design communities know that, despite how generic some error pages are (we'll come back to this), a ...

Those within the SEO and website design communities know that, despite how generic some error pages are (we'll come back to this), a website's 404 pages play an important role in proper search engine optimization. In addition to being part of complete sitemap, they also offer you the opportunity to brand your logo, communicate with visitors, or even get a laugh by showing your company's silly side.

For the record, this is not merely our opinion. Google has been very vocal in implying that unique, inventive, original 404 error pages are an integral part in improving SEO, as well as page rank. This of course begs the question, if a website's 404 page is so essential in a properly-developed site, why does Google's look like it was developed in-between Monday morning meetings?

Below is an example of how NOT to make a 404 Page
Google's 404 Error Page

When Did Google Become Exempt from Leading by Example?

When a dad tells his son that he shouldn't drink, only to polish off a bottle of Johnny Black and wreck the family minivan en route to the dog track, even the slowest of minds would question the moral fiber of the dad. How is Google's lazy 404 page any different? There will always be a mixed bag of opinion on those who hold the reigns, but this proverbial slap in the face to savvy developers is sure to anger many.
It seems they've forgotten that many new and seasoned developers, continue to look to Google for creative inspiration and industry-leading expertise. The template 404 page that Google uses, says more than most people will likely ever catch notice of. Hopefully it's nothing more than an oversight, but that just doesn't seem likely. Or it could be that they've finally embraced being too big to be meddling with trivial things like 404 pages?

Whatever the reason, this is clearly a case of "do as I say, not as I design." If 404 pages are as crucial as we've been made to believe, hopefully Google will lead by example and invest at least ten minutes towards designing their own.

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