Fix soft 404 error

Soft 404 error is one of the errors that you may encounter when reporting from your site search console. The soft 404 error is one of those weird errors; Because it usually happens for pages with 404 error and pages that look normal.

The Soft 404 error is different from the not found error 404, although they are transport brothers

In this article from SEO teaching, we intend to answer these questions:

  • What is soft 404 error?
  • Why does soft 404 error occur?
  • How can we fix the problems that this type of error causes in SEO?


What is soft 404 error?

Google defined this error in the search console guide as follows:

A soft 404 error means that you are showing a page to a user that does not exist and is actually a 404 page; While the HTTP status code for this page returns the 200 code.

To see the HTTP status code for a page, just right-click on the page and select Inspect Element. In the opened window, enter the Network section and find the relevant code according to the figure.

Of course, if you are looking for all the HTTP codes, be sure to read the HTTP status code article, and get acquainted with all the important errors that are important.


Simply put, you have pages on your site that tell the user that this page does not exist but at the same time tell the browser that this page exists.

But why is this happening?

In most cases, there are pages on your site that either have little or no content at all.
For example, your site is running a WordPress content management system, and you have added a new tag to your tag set that no product or article uses yet. WordPress automatically generates a page with that title tag that does not contain any content. As a result, you expose your site to a soft 404 error.

Pages with little content are extremely confusing for Google bots. Let’s look at how the Google robot works when reading these types of pages.

When Google or any other search engine crawls your site, the server sends a message called HTTP status code to these bots. As you know, code 200 means that a page exists. The robot receives a message from the server that the page is available, but encounters a page without content, little or duplicate content. The search engine robot’s response to this is: “This page is not valuable and there is no reason to index it.”

You may also want to redirect the URL of your site indexed pages to another page, such as your homepage. What happens is that on the search engine results page (SERP) the user clicks on the link of the redirected content and is redirected to a page that is completely unrelated to the request. In this case, the first page redirected to the home page is labeled soft 404 error.


Does the soft404 error need to be resolved?

A page tagged by Google as soft404 will be removed from the Google index and will no longer appear in search results. (Note that this error is not a common status code between servers and is just a tag that Google puts on some pages.)

How to tell if there are pages labeled soft 404

To see how your site pages are seen by Google bots, all you have to do is log in to your site console search account and fetch the URL of that page. In this case, you will have a simulated view of when the Google crawler reads that address from your page. If a page has been permanently or temporarily redirected, it should be shown to you after redirecting.

If there is a page on your site that does not give you a redirect message after it is patched, it indicates that there is an error in the HTTP status code for that page while it has been redirected.

If you are unfamiliar with the powerful Google Console Search tool, it is recommended that you visit the SEO teaching Console Search Tutorial.



How to fix soft 404 error?

Note that if the main pages of your site, such as the product page, categories or pages that are valuable to you, have a soft 404 error, you should fix their problem very soon so that these pages are indexed faster by Google.

Having a large number of pages eaten by Google’s soft404 error causes Google to identify your site as a site that does not provide accurate information about the status of its pages. This will reduce the crawl budget of your site.
What does crawl budget mean? This is an approximate amount of money that Google spends on its bots to visit your site. If your site is a site with a large number of URLs, a decrease in crawl budget can negatively affect your site ranking and reduce the site’s ranking in Google results. And if, apart from these errors, you have other problems in SEO, there is a possibility that the pages of the site will be penalized in related or specific words.

In order to be able to solve the problem of pages with soft404 error, you must first find out the cause of this error. Before doing anything, make sure that pages that have this problem return 200 HTTP status codes.


Several solutions to fix soft 404 error

  1. The address that encountered this error no longer exists

    Pages that no longer exist must return the code 404 or 410 to the server. This code tells browsers and search engines that the address in question no longer exists externally.
    If one of the following 3 modes exists for your site pages, you may encounter a soft404 error.

    1) Blank pages
    2) Product category pages that do not contain products
    3) The category pages of the site magazine, which have not yet contained the content specific to that category and have been left blank.

    If you are using a WordPress content management system and you have added a new category to your site that does not yet contain content or products, you are subject to one of the above 3 modes.

    In this case, the best way to fix the soft 404 error is to design a 404 page that returns HTTP status code 404 to the browser. Your 404 page should be designed to take users to pages similar to their request. Only then will Google bots be satisfied that your site has provided the right answer to the needs of users. You are up from 3 modes.

    In this case, the best way to fix the soft404 error is to design a 404 page that returns HTTP status code 404 to the browser. Your 404 page should be designed to take users to pages similar to their request. Only then will Google bots be satisfied that your site has met the right needs of users.


  2. The address you encountered with this error has been moved to another page.
    Suppose you change the URL of a page already indexed in Google to a page with more complete content and a new URL. In this case, you must move the previous URL permanently to the new URL. (redirect 301)


  3. The address that encountered this error is on your site.
    If the URL of the page is still on your site and you want it to appear in Google search results, but that page is labeled soft404, it is because of low content or duplicate content.
    In that case, you should focus on enriching the content of that page. Note that you should always be able to respond to the needs of users correctly.


  4. If the address that received this error label; There is, but you do not want it to appear in Google search results.
    If a page on your site is labeled soft 404 by Google and you do not intend to display that page in Google search results by enriching the content of that page, it is better to block the access of Google bots to that page from within the robots.txt file. So that it can no longer be read by Google bots.



Finally, keep in mind that by constantly reviewing the pages of your site in the Google web hosting tool (search console), you can find pages labeled soft404 and solve the problem of these pages by examining the various reasons mentioned in this tutorial.

In the end, we hope that this article from SEO teaching site has been of interest to you and that you can easily solve the soft 404 problem, which is a category of 4xx errors. Because this error, as mentioned in the article, has a significant impact on the internal SEO of your site and you should be vigilant to find and resolve all types of site errors.

We would be happy if you have any comments or experiences on how to fix this error in the comments with us and other users.

Do you still have a problem with Soft 404 while reading the article ?! Raise your problem in the comments?


Leave a Comment