Crawl Errors now reports soft 404s

Monday, June 07, 2010

Today we're releasing a feature to help you discover if your site serves undesirable soft or crypto 404s. A soft 404 occurs when a webserver responds with a 200 OK HTTP response code for a page that doesn't exist rather than the appropriate 404 Not Found. Soft 404s can limit a site's crawl coverage by search engines because these duplicate URLs may be crawled instead of pages with unique content.

The web is infinite, but the time search engines spend crawling your site is limited. Properly reporting non-existent pages with a 404 or 410 response code can improve the crawl coverage of your site's best content. Additionally, soft 404s can potentially be confusing for your site's visitors as described in our past blog post, Farewell to soft 404 pages.

You can find the new soft 404 reporting feature under the Crawl errors section in Webmaster Tools.

soft 404 errors in the crawl error feature in webmaster tools

Here's a list of steps to correct soft 404 errors to help both Google and your users:

  1. Check whether you have soft 404 errors listed in Webmaster Tools
  2. For the soft 404 errors, determine whether the URL:
    1. Contains the correct content and properly returns a 200 response (not actually a soft 404)
    2. Should 301 redirect to a more accurate URL
    3. Doesn't exist and should return a 404 or 410 response
  3. Confirm that you've configured the proper HTTP Response by using Fetch as Googlebot in Webmaster Tools
  4. If you now return 404 errors, you may want to customize your 404 page to aid your users. Our custom 404 widget can help.

We hope that you're now better enabled to find and correct soft 404 errors on your site. If you have feedback or questions about the new soft 404 error reporting feature or any other Webmaster Tools feature, please share your thoughts with us in the Webmaster Help Forum.