I’ve always enjoyed seeing how web sites implement 404 Error pages because they are universally treated with humor. The above example from the JoeBiden.com web site uses self-deprecating humor saying “WE COULDN’T MASK THIS ERROR, BUT YOU SHOULD MASK YOURSELF” while taking an opportunity to fund raise and offer a suggestion to supporters that they take Covid 19 seriously and mask up.
There’s another 404 Error page below at the Biden/Harris Transition site, saying “We couldn’t find that page, but we can work on building that back better” – which is a play on the Biden-Harris presidential ticket tag line & campaign slogan. Humorous, and poking fun at themselves in the process. (See below).
However, the fact that I saw the page is because, as an SEO, I went to look at the XML sitemap by using a presumed URL https://buildbackbetter.com/sitemap.xml. Now, I might have guessed the wrong URL, but after viewing the robots.txt document, I saw an indication that it was on a WordPress platform. There are a couple lines that are standard there:
- User-agent: *
- Disallow: /wp-admin/
- Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php
Quite often, you’ll see the XML sitemap pointer on that robots.txt document, but because it was missing, I took a guess – https://buildbackbetter.com/sitemap.xml and saw the 404 Error page (above) instead – so you are treated to the error page when going to either of those missing documents.
I smiled at the light humor and immediately wondered what DonaldJTrump.com did with the Trump/Pence campaign 404 Error page. Because it had worked for Biden, I typed in donaldjtrump.com/sitemap.xml and found another 404 Error page, but instead of the typical light humor, there’s an attack on his opponent on the Trump 404 Error page.
Despite the clear difference in the approach at 404 page humor of the two campaigns, one thing in common is that neither follow best practices for XML sitemaps. Given that the Biden/Harris transition site is brand new, as of this writing and has only two pages (a landing page in English and another in Spanish) – there is little need for a sitemap.
However, the Trump/Pence site has 3,940 pages indexed by Google. There should be a sitemap in place.
One final stop on my tour of presidential Error pages takes us to Whitehouse.gov where there is a decidedly unhumorous treatment. A funny bone might be bumped with a list of presidential goofs listed there, but instead there is a plain-jane error page. I suppose there is little humor in the whitehouse during this transition period.