Microsoft wants to help publishers give their users a better web surfing experience by helping publishers replace the default 404 error page with relevant Microsoft Live Search powered search results.
Microsoft’s Web Page Error Toolkit lets publishers create dynamic 404 pages that contain a customized error message along with MSN Live Search results “seeded with relevant keywords” which Microsoft says will help users move past the missing page and find the information they need, via Live Search of course.
[Note : Microsoft is not hijacking 404 pages like Google or Verisign once did, they are giving developers the option of incorporating Live Search results in their error pages.]
Microsoft says that for large web sites with extensive amounts of content, 2 to 10 percent of traffic is looking for pages that either don’t exist or have been moved.
Are Microsoft Search Powered 404 Error Pages the Answer? Nope!
So is sending the user to Live Search results for relevant keyword searches to the site info or other keyword extraction strategies the answer? Well, it’s an option and I’m sure a lot of major .ASP powered sites will start implementing this as part of their default developers kit… but from a marketing standpoint; does it make sense to serve search results which direct the user to an entirely different site?
- If an eBay page serves a 404 Error, are they going to want to serve Microsoft search results which direct the user to a relevant Amazon.com page?
- Furthermore, how will Google and other search engines treat these dynamic Microsoft Search powered 404 Error pages?
It makes much more sense to use an internal search engine, or site specific search engine, to fuel the dynamic search results on a 404 page via keyword extraction (whether that extraction is using URL parameters, search referral info or caches of the error site to serve search results) to keep the user on the site they intended to find information on, not drive them to a new site found via Microsoft Search.
If the developer can use Live Search to search within their site on these Error Pages, then yes, this makes total sense and perhaps Microsoft has a way for their Microsoft dependent developers to incorporate this functionality.
If not, it may be better to set up a 404 Error page which benefits the website, keeps the user on the domain, and maybe even monetizes the error page.
Here is some more information on customizing 404 Error Pages: