In digital marketing, I have a mantra I stick by; ‘Always be optimising’. This comes in quite (and by quite, I mean massively) handy when improving a client’s website. When it comes to goal completion and conversion rate optimisation, even the smallest of changes can have a big effect. However, I’m not going to discuss here a small change, rather a radical one, not often considered but with returns to rival the best tactics. That is, the optimisation of failure and success pages.

How can I boost goal completion?

A great way to boost goal completion is to add relevant links to often forgotten pages. The 404 error page and the success page present unique opportunities for retention and conversion.

Taking 404 pages first, let’s recap on what it is: A standard HTTP response code that says to the user that the server could not find the requested file. In most cases, these are alarmist or worse, unreadable.

Failure pages can lead to Success, follow 3 easy steps

Some quick do’s when you are making a custom 404 page:

  1. Useful navigation options encouraging retention of visitors to your site.
  2. Speaking the right language of the brand, to align with the rest of your site.
  3. Tracking should be employed in order to figure out common entry routes.

That in mind, here’s a few great ones:

Error page

Humour and calming image used in place of an alarmist error message which would not be understood by the audience.

Not less than two (two!) calls to action are used here.

Error page

If the beeb can have fun, why not your site too?

I like this because it is playful and also because it does the easy things well. It has; a link to the homepage in the top left corner (the clickable logo), a search widget, site index as a call to action to retain users on the site and critically, its main navigation bar persist at the top. have maybe an even better error page.

Error page

Not in the least bit alarmist. Ideal for a personal financial services firm who want your financial records.

This uses humour rather than a dull error message and also has easy navigation tools in a prominent place to redirect users back to the main site, where conversion is a possibility.

How can I optimise my Success Page?

With error pages, inevitably come success pages. This too is when the aforementioned mantra of ‘Always be Optimising’ is most true. Sure why would you stop at the conversion point when you could gather all sorts of useful demographic data on your new customer? The retention game starts here!

A few quick things to include when optimising your success page:

  • Include Social profile links, including a “share this page” button.
  • Additional resources (white papers, case studies, etc.)
  • Company content (blog, forums, etc)
  • Related products or services
  • Email newsletter sign-up
  • Coupon code for future purchase

Wordstream and Clickz both do this exceedingly well:

Thank You Page

Cross-selling here is proposed to the customer as a bonus.


Thank You Page

Simple and to the point

Why would I want to optimise my failure and success pages?

You may well be thinking to yourself, I’ve just got a sale, life is good, what more could I want? The thing is, you are of a mind to “Always be Optimising”, right? Good. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s dive into the data.

Social Sharing can aid customer advocacy

Social sharing is an avenue that can have an effect on the volume of your goal completions, provided there’s a good experience on offer, of course! Nobody’s going to recommend you to friends and family if your website loads as fast as an oil-tanker does a 180 turn!

Data shows that social media posts are between two and three times more likely to influence buyer behaviour than advertising via banner ads or sponsored posts.

So by adding a social sharing button on your success page (or thank-you page), that can, in time, lead to an uplift in sales. Considering the outlay on a social media button is negligible, and the cost of social posts is not, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to go ahead and add those buttons to your success page.

Positive Reviews encourage conversion

Social sharing is key within advocacy but isn’t the complete picture. Ratings and reviews also have an impact.

Results from a recent study show that 82% of adult Amazon Prime members consider ratings and reviews from other members in evaluating products for purchase. If you collect reviews on your success page, you can enhance your numbers. Numbers in this context can be expressed in terms of traffic to your site via maybe rich snippets in search (example below). Also in terms of conversion rate on products where users are somewhat unsure about and need peer reviews and ratings to help them to decide.

Taking review rich snippets for one example, these are becoming more prevalent.

Search engines like Google are allowing more of these loose in the wild. Data for the past month shows an upward trend for stars in the SERPs. While conversion doesn’t happen directly from these, they help users to make choices about the products that they would like to buy. That can only help the goal completion rate on your site.

failure and success pages

Review Rich Snippets in Google SERPs over the period of mid-June to mid July, 2017. Source: Moz

In terms of 404 pages, the results from the optimisations enthused above can be less staggering. However, retaining your traffic is always better than losing it.

Traffic from failure pages is still traffic

On 404 pages if you aid navigation by providing search functionalities to find site content or navigation buttons that we tend to take for granted, you retain traffic. It may be a long term play but keeping that traffic on your site is better than losing it (possibly) forever. Why let potential customers leave so quickly? After all, there is an industry devoted to keeping your traffic on your site, and ultimately, converting it. Veinteractive, a key player here, have made the following calculation:

88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

So, it makes sense to keep a hold of traffic, improve dwell metrics on site and ultimately that traffic will convert if your site works as a conversion tool.

I’m sold! Gimme some Failure and Success Pages

It’s likely that your website has:

A) Goals set up

B) a 404 page, and

C) all the necessary content management tools

It should be possible to make it happen. If not and/or you want help, just ask.