A soft 404 error is a situation where a web page returns a status code of 200 (OK), but the content on the page is similar to that of a 404 (Page Not Found) error page. This commonly happens when a page has been removed from a website, but no redirect has been set up to send visitors to another relevant page. As a result, the page still returns a 200 status code, rather than the appropriate 404 code.
Soft 404 Error Impact on SEO
Unfortunately, soft 404 errors can have a serious negative impact on a website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines may interpret these errors as an indication that the page is of low quality or irrelevant. This can result in the page being excluded from the search engine’s index, which means it won’t appear in search results.
In one example, Jamie Indigo shared in the “SEO Fairy Tales” episode, an automotive site lost 3 million of its product listing pages from Google’s index because of soft 404 errors. After investigating, Jamie’s team discovered that these pages had been excluded from the index due to soft 404 errors, despite having content. To fix the issue, the team manually tested the pages and redirected them to new URLs. By doing so, the pages were no longer seen as soft 404 errors, and they were able to appear in search results once again.
What is a soft 404 error and how it impact SEO?
A soft 404 error occurs when a website’s server returns a status code of 200 instead of 404 when a user attempts to access a page that does not exist. This causes search engines to index the page, which can affect the website’s ranking in search engine result pages.
What is the difference between a soft 404 error and a regular 404 error?
A regular 404 error occurs when a website’s server returns a status code of 404 when a user attempts to access a page that does not exist. This tells search engines that the page does not exist and, as a result, will not be indexed. A soft 404 error occurs when a website’s server returns a status code of 200 instead of 404 so search engines will still index the page.
What are the consequences of a soft 404 error?
The most significant consequence of a soft 404 error is that it can negatively impact the website’s SEO performance. Since the page is indexed, it could interfere with the website’s ranking in search engine result pages, thus decreasing the likelihood of users finding the website. Soft 404 errors can also slow down the website’s loading time, as the website’s server must sift through unindexed, nonexistent pages.
How is a soft 404 error identified?
A soft 404 error can be identified by monitoring website traffic. If a page is receiving a high number of page views but has a low conversion rate, this could be an indicator of a soft 404 error. Additionally, webmasters can use search console tools to identify and diagnose any soft 404 errors that may be present on the website.
How can a soft 404 error be fixed?
The best way to fix a soft 404 error is to set up a 301 or 302 redirect. This redirects all traffic from the soft 404 page to a relevant page on the website, thus preventing the search engines from indexing the page. Additionally, webmasters need to ensure that the server is returning a 404 code when a user attempts to access a page that does not exist.