I was recently browsing the website of a cutting edge, market-leading tech company, and in the course of my online journey, I hit a 404 page not found error. My first reaction was confusion. Here I was on the site of a much respected, innovative organization and yet, here too was a digital dead end and an error message that I associated with the early days of the internet. Surely 404 pages don’t happen anymore, right?

Actually, they do, and surprisingly, in the era of rapidly growing organizations with ever-evolving content, we are seeing a resurgence of 404 pages. During this wave of digital transformations, where websites and online properties are relied upon to deliver easy, intuitive and relevant experiences, ‘page not found’ is not something customers will tolerate.

In the case of my example, there was no suggested alternative page and nowhere to go except to retrace my steps and make different choices, hoping for a different outcome. Had I been less motivated to find what I was looking for, I would have abandoned my journey and gone elsewhere. In fact, I normally do and I’m not alone. Salesforce reports that 52% of visitors will leave if they don’t find what they’re looking for. As you can imagine, this has the potential to have a detrimental impact on your business. Directing your hard won visitor to a dead end can significantly impact both satisfaction and conversion.

So why am I writing about this? Surely this is a job for web administrators and webmasters to address with QA and more resources? Well, no actually — hence my frustration: it’s just so easy to fix, so why should we ever send people to an online dead-end ever again?

With a quick Google search, you’ll find lots of content about how to create a cute or humorous 404 page. But cute and funny alone aren’t cutting it anymore. Your customers are expecting helpful, clear and relevant answers that will help them to successfully achieve their goals.

Want to know the trick? Machine learning and AI-powered search. Every page visit and click-through is either the result of a query or search performed by a user or a navigation through your site and subsequent clicking on a link that looks interesting. In both of those cases, you can know, in the case of a user inputted query, or infer, in the case of an indirect online journey, what the person is really looking for and interested in.

How? By examining the context of a visitor’s online journey, plus their pattern of clicks and queries, which are trackable through usage analytics, or the search queries they’ve entered during their visit, and then layering on machine learning to automatically spot patterns of behavior and understand what others like them have sought out, you can ultimately predict what pages and content your visitor will find most relevant.

So, how does all of this address 404 Page Not Found results? Coveo Machine Learning and AI capabilities understand the intent of your visitors and can predict what content might be of interest and what they need next. Coveo ML includes intelligent recommendations, which can be integrated into any website page using our flexible UI tools and automatically suggests the most relevant alternative page or content to allow a user to complete their online journey successfully. In short, Coveo ensures relevance at every stage and eliminates the need for dead-ends once and for all.

You may be thinking that investing in Coveo’s AI-powered search simply to address 404 pages might be overkill, and you’d probably be right. But what this illustrates is simply one of the many ways in which AI-powered search and recommendations can significantly improve your website and your user’s digital experience in ways you may not have considered. It’s a great reminder that we need to think well beyond the traditional search box, and that with Coveo, you get much more than search: you get a complete toolset to enhance your customer experience. An added bonus is that we can say goodbye to virtual dead-ends forever.

To learn about other ways in which Coveo’s AI-powered search can improve your website or digital experience, watch our video with Dan Cruickshank of Fishtank Consulting on how Coveo enables organizations to give the best content to the right people at the right time.

About Diane Tetrault

As Senior Director of Product Marketing for Coveo, Diane has more than 20 years’ experience in the technology and communications industries in both North America and the UK. Having started her professional career as developer, Diane realized her true calling was on the business side of things, and developed a passion for marketing customer centric technology solutions. With her unique blend of technical aptitude and strategic thinking, Diane now leads a team responsible for creating the stories about what companies can achieve using Coveo’s AI-powered intelligent search. Diane holds a BCom and MBA from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and is an avid traveler and professional scuba diver.

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