The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Are you fed up with your 404 page? Worried that your clients are too? Broken links are broken conversations. Here’s a wee idea I came up with to fix the disappointment and get you and your visitors talking again … using a chatbot.
What is a 404 page?
A 404 page is where your visitor ends up if they’ve clicked on a link to your website and one of the following has occurred:
Google’s recommendations for a high-quality 404 page
When you hit a 404 page on a website, you feel frustrated. You’ve gone to that site for a reason – you’re trying to solve a problem, or learn something new, perhaps even buy a service or product.
And if the page you’re searching for has been moved, or if the link you’ve clicked is incorrect, you end up in a place you don’t want to be. It’s a dead end.
If the website’s owner has been thoughtful, there’ll be a search box or menu to help you, perhaps a list of links that might be useful.
Still, you’re the one who has to do the work to get back on the right path because, usually, there isn’t is a way of talking to the owner, a way of saying, ‘I wanted X but I’m stuck. Can you help?’
And since you’re already in a grumpy mood, you’re more likely to disengage and leave the site. After all, someone else is probably solving your problem, and maybe if you head back to Google Search, you’ll find a fix rather than a 404.
A beautiful bot! Introducing Lulu …
I’m a fiction copyeditor and proofreader and I love marketing my business! I regularly publish free booklets, PDFs, checklists and templates for fellow editors and proofreaders, and self-publishing authors. I share news about that content via social media and on my blog.
A few weeks ago, I set up a free account with ManyChat. I created Lulu, my Messenger bot. She’s my digital assistant and she’s great – most of the time! We’ve had a few glitches … some digital napping on the job … but in the main she’s successfully helped me deliver my resources to my Facebook network. Instantly.
I learned how to build Lulu from my two favourite pro content marketers Andrew and Pete. August was their ‘Build Your Bot Month’ and four in-depth tutorials taught me everything I needed to know to get going.
If you want a taster, hop over to YouTube and watch ‘Get Started Using Messenger Bots in Your Marketing with Andrew and Pete’.
All well and good. But was there other ways I could use Lulu to help me engage with my community of editors and authors meaningfully?
Recently, I was looking for something online. It took a while to find what I wanted, but find it I did. Or nearly. The link looked good but landing was a disappointment – a 404. The site was busy and I had no clue where to start. So I did what a lot of people do online. I gave up and went somewhere more interesting instead.
That’s not what I want people doing on my site. I want my authors and colleagues to feel that I’m there for them, ready to help, ready to engage. Could Lulu help?
The ManyChat webpage widget
I decided to get Lulu on the case of my 404 page.
I have a lot of content on my website, and even more external links to that content. I’ve been blogging regularly since 2011, and I’ve changed things around on my site more times than I care to mention. And while I do my best to set up 301 redirects when I make changes, there’s no doubt that there are external broken links about which I can do little.
ManyChat has a bunch of growth tools including two embeddable widgets. One is an opt-in box that can be placed anywhere on a website.
I’ve used this widget to provide a more interactive experience for my 404 arrivals, one that enables them to make choices with the click of a button, but ultimately to say, ‘Louise, I wanted X but I’m stuck. Can you help?’
Because they’re contacting me via Messenger, they can get in touch instantly. Which means I can help them quickly. And the quicker I help, the less likely they are to get the hump and go somewhere more interesting instead.
What’s great about this widget is the customization element. You can choose colours, images and messages that reflect your clients’ needs and your solutions.
It matters not whether you're an editor like me, or an author, or another type of business owner ... the widget will work for anyone with a website.
Case study: the visitor journey on my 404 page
Now that I’ve set up Lulu, the visitor who lands on my 404 page can take a journey, one that involves the ability to interact directly with me quickly. Here’s what it looks like ...
This is what the visitor sees when they land:
Clicking on the button takes them to a new page:
Now the conversation beings in Messenger. First, Lulu introduces herself and asks the visitor to provide some information that will determine how the interaction proceeds:
In this example, the visitor has selected ‘Author’. This generates a new set of choices, including the option to have a conversation with me:
If the visitor chooses to ask for a quote or get some free resources, they’re taken directly to the relevant pages on my website. If they wish to talk to me, Lulu acknowledges the request with a message:
In the Messages section of my Facebook page I receive a notification that someone wishes to chat. Lulu steps aside and the real conversation with me can begin:
The ManyChat widget allows us to work with Google’s recommendations: apologetic, friendly language that acknowledges the problem; colours, language and images that are on-brand; clickable links to key pages and core content; and the ability to report the problem directly via an instant conversation.
Landing on a 404 page is a negative experience for the visitor. A chatbot turns that negative experience into an opportunity, one that offers a series of calls to action. By including a discussion in the mix, we can offer one-to-one engagement.
And it’s fun! We’re putting a smile back on a frustrated client’s face, and that can only be a good thing!
Have you used a chatbot for your own 404 page, or as a way of engaging with your clients and colleagues? Let me know in the comments!
Louise Harnby is a fiction copyeditor and proofreader. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you're an author, you might like to visit Louise’s Writing Library to access my latest self-publishing resources, all of which are free and available instantly.
Search the blog
I'm an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society.
All text on this blog, The Proofreader's Parlour, and on the other pages of this website (unless indicated otherwise) is in copyright © 2011–17 Louise Harnby. Please do not copy or reproduce any of the content, in whole or part, in any form, unless you ask first.
Author Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). I abide by its Code of Standards in regard to my status as an independent writer.
Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I'm a signatory to its code of practice as a professional editor.
Featured in The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies: Joel Friedlander's collection of 'outstanding articles recently posted to blogs'.
Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.