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Error 404

What’s the difference between a 404 and a soft 404 error?

Error 404

What’s the difference between a 404 and a soft 404 error?

You have more than likely seen a 404 “page not found” error on a website before, but have you ever heard of a soft 404?

If you have used Google Search Console platform to see how your website is performing in search results, you may have seen a soft 404 issue flagging within the Pages section of Search Console, but what does this mean and how does it differ from a standard 404 error?

Even though they are both called 404 errors, they are completely different, so it is important to know what the difference is between them if you want to fix them on your website.

When a browser requests a specific page on a website, the server communicates whether the request was successful. If a page no longer exists, this is when your browser gets a 404 error status code sent back, and the dreaded “page not found” message appears.

Why can 404 errors occur?

There are two reasons why a 404 error might occur on a website. The first is that someone may have deleted this webpage by mistake or sometimes on purpose. If they have done it on purpose, the best search engine optimisation (SEO) practice is to redirect your page to another relevant page so that users don’t get a 404 “page not found” error.

The other reason is if someone links to a page that doesn’t exist, resulting in a 404 error being shown to users. Obviously, this isn’t good for user experience.

What is a soft 404?

A soft 404 happens when a server responds with a successful status code to say that a page exists, but the webpage or content is missing. If you have a page that has little or no content, it can flag as a soft 404 error as the content isn’t useful for users.

Sometimes, if you have redirected a missing page to the home page, this can sometimes flag up as a soft 404 too, as this is not the page the user has requested.

If you have set up your custom 404 error page and it presents a 200-status code, this can sometimes be flagged as a soft 404 too.

Therefore, the main difference is that a 404 error is a status code. A soft 404 error is not a status code but is sometimes classified as such by search engines due to low content, or even sometimes redirects that don’t make sense.

If you are unsure how to get more traffic to your website, have a chat with our friendly team at Engage Web to see how we can develop a digital marketing strategy to help you get more business from your website.

Jonathon Roberts

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