What does soft 404 error mean?

dummy imageby Lisa Dunn (142), 2 weeks ago Search engine optimization

I see this quiet often in SEO discussions, blog posts, etc.

Soft 404 error

But what does that really mean? Is there an hard 404 too? How are these different?

dummy imageMartin Senko (133), 2 weeks ago Best Answer

Hi Lisa.

Guys at Search Engine Journal published nice article about 404 errors / error pages. I highly recommend it to read it, so you better understand what are they and when you should use 404 or eventually, how to fix 404 errors.

Check the full article here: 404 vs. soft 404 errors

However, to answer your question; 404 error means the page is missing, but the server responded with 200 (even it probably should be returning 404 or other 4xx HTTP response code). Google, with all the data, knows what are common patterns of 404 pages, so even after getting 200, they may flag the page in their index as missing (404).

What you should do is: return 404 code AND show 404 page, when the page is missing. Otherwise, you're telling user/search engine, that the requested page exists.

1 reply
dummy imageMartin Senko (133), 2 weeks ago

Hi Lisa.

Guys at Search Engine Journal published nice article about 404 errors / error pages. I highly recommend it to read it, so you better understand what are they and when you should use 404 or eventually, how to fix 404 errors.

Check the full article here: 404 vs. soft 404 errors

However, to answer your question; 404 error means the page is missing, but the server responded with 200 (even it probably should be returning 404 or other 4xx HTTP response code). Google, with all the data, knows what are common patterns of 404 pages, so even after getting 200, they may flag the page in their index as missing (404).

What you should do is: return 404 code AND show 404 page, when the page is missing. Otherwise, you're telling user/search engine, that the requested page exists.