Soft 404 Error

What is a Soft 404 Error? And How to Fix It?

First, we’ll look at what a regular 404 is:

A 404 error happens when a page is not available and the server sends the correct HTTP status code — a 404 Not Found — to the browser telling the page is nowhere to be found.

A soft 404 error happens when the server sends a 200 OK status for the requested page, but Google thinks that the page should return a 404. It may do this if the page content looks like an error, or if there’s no content. So basically, pages with soft 404 errors are pages that don’t or shouldn’t exist but still exists according to the CMS.

Confusing, right? If it’s confusing for you as a reader, think about how search engines get confused by this. A soft 404 error is not a standard server status code, but a label that search engines add to help them make sense of these pages and to ignore these as they see fit. These errors show up in tools like Google Search Console and you should

Soft 404 errors can cause your site to lose rankings because they signal to search engines that your content is not relevant or of good quality. If you have soft 404 errors on your website, make sure to fix them as soon as possible.

Some common causes of soft 404 errors are:

– Pages that return a 200 OK status but have no content

– Pages that return a 200 OK status but have very little content

– Pages that are created by scripts or bots that generate automatically generated content

– Orphaned pages (pages that are not linked to from any other page

How to fix soft 404 errors

The first step is to identify which pages are returning soft 404 errors. You can do this by using a tool like Google Search Console. Once you’ve identified the pages, you need to decide if the page should exist or not. If the page should not exist, then you need to redirect the page to another relevant page on your site or to your home page. If the page should exist, then you need to add more relevant and high-quality content to the page.

Once you’ve fixed the soft 404 errors on your website, make sure to submit your sitemap to Google so that they can re-crawl your site and update it search index.

Soft 404 errors can be confusing, but they’re important to fix because they can cause your site to lose rankings. If you have soft 404 errors on your website, use Google Search Console to identify the pages and then decide if the page should exist or not. If the page should not exist, redirect it to another relevant page on your site. If the page should exist, add more relevant and high-quality content to the page. Once you’ve fixed the soft 404 errors, submit your sitemap to Google so they can update their index.

Solution 1: Add Content

Add content to the pages that are triggering a soft 404 error due to a lack of content, simply write some unique and relevant copy and add it to the affected pages. Then, inside the soft 404 report on GSC, click the validate fix button. Next time Google crawls this page, it will recognise the changes and take off the soft 404 warning.

Solution 2: Redirect

If you’re confident that a page should no longer exists on your site, then the best way to deal with a soft 404 error is to set up a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. When you set up a 301 redirect, search engines will understand that the page has moved permanently and will update their index accordingly.

To set up a 301 redirect, you will need to edit your .htaccess file. This is a file that lives on your server and controls how URLs are redirected. If you’ve never edited this file before, then it’s best to get in touch with your hosting company and ask them to do it for you. Once the 301 redirect is in place, go back to GSC and click the validate fix button.

Solution 3: Consolidate Pages

If you have multiple pages that are all returning a soft 404 error, then it might be worth consolidating these pages into one. This is especially true if the pages are similar or if they’re all targeting the same keyword.

To consolidate pages, you will need to set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL. Again, you will need to edit your .htaccess file to do this. Once the redirect is in place, go back to GSC and click the validate fix button.

Conclusion

Soft 404 errors can be caused by several things, but the most common cause is a lack of relevant and high-quality content. The best way to fix a soft 404 error is to either add more content to the page or redirect the page to another relevant page on your website. If you have multiple pages that are all returning a soft 404 error, then it might be worth consolidating these pages into one. Once you’ve fixed the soft 404 errors on your website, make sure to submit your sitemap to Google so they can re-crawl your site and update its index.

 | Website

As a London-based Technical SEO Strategist, I've worked with top firms like BT.com, EE.co.uk, Tripadvisor, Yopa, and various digital marketing and cloud computing companies. My extensive experience in SEO, including outreach, helps me create impactful strategies informed by the latest industry trends, ensuring innovative solutions for diverse industry needs.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add Comment *

Name *

Email *

Website