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Soft 404 Error - What is it? And How to fix it?

Jaydip Parikh
Jaydip is Digital Marketer and Founder of www.tej9.com . He also loves technical SEO.
・5 min read

There might have been instances where you've been working on your website and get a soft 404 error. Besides, you may also have received an email from Google Search Console notifying you about the soft 404 errors on your site.

Basically, Soft 404 error is a part of Technical SEO. It consists of one of the important steps that are finding and fixing the Soft 404 error.

Soft 404 errors can be considered as one of the most confusing errors. The reason behind this is unclarity while finding the issue behind which makes it utterly tricky to troubleshoot and fix this cumbersome process.

But do you really know what a soft 404 error is and why is this error known as a 'Soft' error?

Read our blog to find out what is this error and how to fix it.

What is a soft 404 error?

A Soft 404 error appears when the page that is requested by the user is not to be found or is invalid. Here, the servers that are poorly configured send a 200 OK status (Success) for the page requested by the user, instead of returning the correct HTTP error code (404 or 410 not found).

To make it easier for your understanding, Here, the server should show that the page is invalid by providing search engines with the correct code for ignoring the same. But instead of doing that, your server will return to a 200 OK code, which means that the page is valid and working.

Due to this confusion, the search engines keep these pages and also list them in the search results. You can detect Soft 404 errors with the help of tools like Google Search Console.

Talking further about the Soft 404 error, it is not a formal server status code. Instead, It’s just a label added by search engines to a particular page. Basically, Pages having a soft 404 error shouldn’t be existing. But according to the CMS, they do have an existence.

A Soft 404 error is most commonly seen in CMS like WordPress. It consists of many pages that are generated automatically but are totally empty and useless.

What are the causes behind a Soft 404 error?

There are several reasons behind a Soft 404 error mentioned below:
An Unavailable Page
If you have a page that no longer exists, you can solve this issue by doing this:

  • If the page was removed accidentally, Consider restoring the page.
  • If the page was removed intentionally, consider redirecting it to the closest page.

Primarily, you’ll have to check your website and find out the linking errors. You can also take the help of crawling tools if you have a wide-ranging website. But these crawling tools are not proficient in finding orphaned content. This type of content is not linked to any of the pages and doesn’t have any navigational links.

Well, there is no problem with having orphaned content on your website. Once your site has been redesigned the link attached to your old content may vanish, but there are chances of having external links from other websites that are still linked to your old content. For the same, you can use several tools to check if this kind of page still exists on your site.

Linking Errors

If the reason behind Soft 404 errors in your site is broken links, then the best way to get over this is to fix the broken links. It sounds utterly simple, but it isn’t so as finding these broken links is a huge task altogether.

Well, the difficulty level rises a bit higher when the site is of larger size with thousands of pages. In such circumstances, you can rely on crawling tools such as Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, and Xenu. But If you want to have a sure shot solution to this problem, you can consider getting in touch with an SEO agency. They can help you with these errors and have a look at the overall health of your website with a systematic approach.

Ways to Fix Soft 404 Errors

Generally, Crawling tools are inefficient in recognizing a soft 404 as it doesn’t really appear as an error. Here, you can take the help of some crawling tools for something else that might lead you towards identifying the soft 404 errors.

Pointing Out Thin Content

Some crawling tools that are capable enough of finding the thin content and also presenting the total word count of the content. With this, it becomes utterly easy to sort out the URLs based on the word count of the content. While starting this process, consider picking up the pages with the least word count and then assess if the page has thin content.

Recognizing Identical Content

Some crawling tools are proficient in detecting the amount of identical content on a page. There shouldn’t be any content on your site, which is similar to other available on the search engines. It is essential to look upon this matter and solve it asap.

Merging the Pages

Sometimes the reason behind thin content is the page topics that cover too niche topics. So, it is better to merge all the thin page content into one page with the topics related to it. Eventually, Content Pruning Improves Your Website Content & ranking. This will solve not only your thin content issue but also the identical content issue.

Identifying Technical Issues that foster Duplicate Content

No matter how basic crawling tools you use, it is easy to find duplicate content by looking at the URLs. They follow a pattern that showcases the issue of duplicate content.

What does Google think of the Soft 404 error?

A soft 404 error is not considered to be a 404 error with regards to Google. But if you don’t solve this problem at the earliest, there are chances of Google deindexing your pages. For avoiding such an issue, consider crawling your site regularly and look out for any 404 errors.

Majorly, people think that there is nothing to worry about the soft 404 error. But you may be utterly wrong as it does impact your user experience and your site’s ranking on the search engines.

Wrapping Up

Solving soft 404 errors can be considered as an advanced SEO technique. To solve this issue, you need to have thorough knowledge about using Google Search Console. Well, the most common way to solve this issue is to use a 301 redirection or remove a page from the search engine index. For keeping your SEO performance at par, consider not having the soft 404 errors. Try your best to find these errors and fix them asap.

We hope this blog on Soft 404 error will give you clarity on the overall issue. The points mentioned above will be utterly helpful for your website.

If you think we have missed any of the points, then feel free to share in the comments. Also, if you have any feedback, drop them in the comments.

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