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If you browse the internet a lot, you will likely have come across a 404 error at some point especially the website admins who encounter Hard 404 error and Soft 404 error during site maintenance. You must have heard about Error 404s on a webpage, but those are just regular “Page Not Found” errors. So, what exactly are Soft 404 error, and are soft 404 bad for SEO 

Soft 404 errors are commonly displayed on web pages by Google, specifically for larger websites. They are strange errors since they are a hybrid of 404 errors and regular pages, and it’s not always obvious what’s causing the error on a particular page. Soft 404 errors differ from general 404 errors that can potentially damage your webpage.  

So, in this blog, we will help you clarify some confusion surrounding what is Soft 404 error, why does it happen, whether soft 404 bad for SEO, and how to fix them. Read along to get your answers! 

What Is Soft 404 Error?  

A soft 404 error is a page on your website that appears to return a “404 Not Found” error code but does not indicate that the page is genuinely missing to the user. Instead, the page may display a message that it is temporarily unavailable due to maintenance or display unrelated or irrelevant content. Soft 404 error can occur for several reasons, such as when a page is empty, converted, or moved to a new URL without proper redirects.  

Difference Between Hard 404 Error and Soft 404 Error 

People often get confused between Hard 404 errors and Soft 404 errors. If you are one of them, we have made things easier for you.  

  • Hard 404 Error: Hard 404 errors are basically ‘404 not found errors’ where the page is not found, and the HTTP status code that is returned is either 404 or 410 (corresponds to “not found”)  
  • Soft 404 Error: A soft 404 error occurs when a page cannot be found, but rather than returning to HTTP status code 404, the page returns a 200-success code, which is misleading. 

In simpler terms, the page response code should have been 404 in both cases. However, that’s not the case with soft 404 errors. Let’s understand their technical differences.  

S. No  Hard 404 Error  Soft 404 Error 
1.  A typical HTTP response code that notifies search engines that a specific page is broken or unavailable and won’t be restored.  Returns a 200 OK status as a response. These pages have trouble loading though, they aren’t dead. These kinds of pages are likely to be restored. 
2.  Incorrect or broken links and links that take users to pages that are no longer available might result in a hard 404 error, often known as a “not found page.”  Google will flag a webpage as a soft 404 error page if a person visits it and discovers that certain information is missing. Blank, expired, or duplicate pages are the cause of it. 
3.  The developers must find and fix link errors. Unfortunately, link mistakes are hard to spot on large, complicated websites with hundreds of pages. Nevertheless, crawling tools like Xenu, Deepcrawl, and Botify can help to find broken links  They are hard for crawling tools to find because they differ from 404 error pages in several ways. Soft error pages typically contain thin or plagiarised content. Crawling tools like Xemu, Deepcrawl, and Botify can inspect response codes, title tags, and related URLs. Developers can examine these pages to find soft 404 errors. 

 

Are Soft 404 Errors Bad For SEO?  

To be honest, YES! There are both direct and indirect ways in which Soft 404 can be bad for SEO and harm your website ranking. Soft 404 errors can significantly harm your website’s SEO efforts because they confuse search engines and users.  

They send search engine crawls conflicting signals about the validity of a web page, resulting in search engines either indexing the page incorrectly or not indexing it at all. Ultimately, this leads to lower search rankings and less organic traffic, resulting in lost revenue. 

How to Identify Soft 404 Errors? 

You can identify soft 404 errors on your website using the “Google Search Console” coverage report or other third-party tools. If you visit GSC, you will notice a mistake marked “Submitted URL seems soft 404”. Click on it to see all the pages containing errors.  

Google Search Console flags soft 404 errors and provides recommendations for fixing them. Another way to find soft 404 errors is to analyze your website’s crawl data using a web crawler tool that identifies pages with little or no content. 

How to Fix Soft 404 Error? 

Suppose you’re dealing with a Soft 404 error on essential web pages like category, lead generation, or product pages. In that case, it is vital to react quickly for a Soft 404 error fix, get these pages indexed, and restore them to Google search. How you fix the soft 404 error depends on the page and the cause of it. 

However, speaking generally, the least you could do is ensure the URL returns the correct status code to match the right content. Here are a few ways to Soft 404 error fix 

  1. Review Error Pages

Review soft 404 error pages on your website and identify the ones without meaningful content. Determine whether a page is genuinely missing or if it exists but needs updating, deleting, or redirection. 

  1. Update or Delete Pages

Update pages with inadequate content to provide valuable and relevant information to visitors. Remove pages with no content or duplicate content. 

  1. Redirect URLs

When a page is moved to a new URL, use a 301 redirect to redirect users and search engines to the new page. This prevents soft 404 errors from appearing and preserves your website’s search engine rankings. 

  1. Customize the 404 Error Page

Customize your website’s 404 error page to provide helpful information and guidance to users, such as a search bar and sitemap to help visitors find the information they want. 

  1. Reindex the Page

After fixing a soft 404 error page, resubmit the page to search engines and request a reindex of the page to ensure search engines index it correctly. 

 Final Words 

Soft 404 errors are pretty strange, and the cause of it is not always clear. However, with a little digging around – especially in Google Search Console – you can identify the root cause of the issue and implement a solution quickly. Keep an eye on GSC regularly for any new errors. Following the fixes mentioned in our blog can significantly impact your website’s ranking.  

With our solid SEO strategies, you can improve your website’s SEO performance and provide valuable information to your users. Contact us today!! 

 

Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools) is an excellent free SEO tool from Google for every site that uses Google Search to drive traffic. It comes as part of your Google account. By definition, Google Search Console is not a keyword research tool; however, it is often used for analyzing the organic search performance of your website. If your website receives organic traffic and meaningful data from the past 3-6 months, you can surely use GSC as a keyword research tool. 

Although, doing keyword research on GSC will be different from the process of using a typical keyword research tool, it is most likely to help you find keywords relevant to your website. This is because you are not tapping into your competitors or trying to look for entirely new keywords to apply. Instead, you focus on where you currently stand in Google’s search results and make the most of the areas where Google already believes you to be an expert. 

Are you ready? Let’s hop in! 

6 Steps-By-Step Guide to Use Google Search Console as SEO & Keyword Research Tool 

When it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, Google Search Console is an invaluable tool. Not only does it provide essential insights into how your website is performing in search results, but it also works as a keyword research tool and offers valuable data showing which keywords are ranking well.  If used in a right way, it can help you get relevant traffic to your site. So, let us check out a step-by-step guide to using GSC for SEO & keyword research: 

1. Set Up Your Googe Console

Before you can leverage the power of Google Search Console, you must set it up for your website.  

  • Simply go to the Google Search Console website and add your website as a new property. 
  • Follow the steps to verify ownership.
  • Once verified, you’ll access the full range of features and data from Google Search Console.

2. Analyze Your Performance Data

Once you have set up Google Search Console, you can dive into the performance data of your website.  

  • The performance report shows valuable information about your website’s appearance in search results, including impressions, clicks, click-through rates (CTR), and average position.  
  • This data can help you identify which keywords are generating the most traffic and the pages that are performing well.  
  • Analyzing this data allows you to make informed decisions about optimizing your content for improved search visibility. 

3. Identify Keyword Opportunities

One of the most powerful features of Google Search Console is the Search Analysis report.  

  • This report allows you to see the search queries driving traffic to your website. 
  • Analyzing this data lets you identify valuable keyword opportunities you may not have initially targeted.  
  • Look for frequently used search terms with a high click-through rate (CTR) but a lower average position.  
  • These are keywords that you can focus on optimizing further to boost your website’s visibility in search results 

4. Optimize Your Content

With the insights gained from Google Search keyword e Console, you can optimize your website’s content for better search engine rankings.  

  • Use the identified keywords to enhance your existing pages, create new content around those keywords. Remember to update meta titles and descriptions to align with popular search terms. 
  • By optimizing your content based on the search queries driving traffic to your website, you increase the likelihood of capturing more organic traffic. 

5. Monitor Your Progress

  • Regularly monitor your website’s performance and keyword ranking using Google Search Console.  
  • Keep an eye on impressions, clicks, click-through rates, and average position changes. Identify any fluctuations and investigate the reasons behind them.  
  • This ongoing monitoring allows you to make necessary adjustments and capitalize on emerging opportunities.  
  • It also helps you track the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and measures your progress over time. 

6. Submit a Sitemap and Check for Errors

As part of your SEO strategy, submitting a sitemap of our website to Google Search Console is essential.  

  • This helps search engines crawl and index your pages more effectively.  
  • Additionally, regularly check the Index Coverage report to identify any errors or indexing issues hindering your website’s visibility.  
  • Resolve these errors promptly to ensure your website is appropriately indexed and accessible to search engines and users. 

Good Keyword Research Is Just the Beginning…. 

This Google Search Console Ultimate Guide will help you set up your search console account and use it to find keywords that matter to you. However, you can learn how to use Google Search Console to its full potential but doing that alone won’t be enough! You must get familiar with all the parts of SEO to utilize all the data metrics to boost your SERP ranking. That includes – On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, Technical SEO, and more… Keep reading our blogs to stay informed about all news regarding SEO. 

Tracking the performance of your website can help you learn more about what matters most to your audience, how they find your content, and whether it appears in search results. Website owners and SEO specialists can precisely track the performance of their site with the help of Google Search Console.  

For SEO success, analyzing the performance of your site with the help of Google Search Console is a must. Since, Google Console is a vast and immersive sphere, we’re covering every little detail and aspect of Google Search Console SEO in this comprehensive guide. Here, you will get all your questions answered about the tool; you will learn how to set it up for your website or blog and how to use it for SEO success. 

What is Google Search Console? 

Google Search Console, or for short “GSC,” is a web service provided by Google that allows website owners and webmasters to monitor the performance of their websites and optimize their visibility in Google search results. It provides data on various variables, including user experience and search appearance.  

Features: 

Google Console can assist you in enhancing your website and gaining more traffic from Google. Here are a few essential features that Google Search Console (GSC) provides: 

  • Error identification and fixing 
  • Internal and external link reviewing 
  • Monitoring crawling and indexing 
  • Request for updated page indexing 
  • Search performance overview 

Neither Google Search Console is a ranking factor nor necessary to rank better. However, the valuable insights Search Console provides makes it essential for enhancing search performance and increasing website traffic. 

How To Set Up Google Search Console for Your Website or Blog? 

You don’t need to be an expert in HTML or coding to set up your Google Search Console. However, you should take some time to think about how your website is organized and written, and you will be ready to make changes. 

To set up Google Search Console for your website or blog, follow these steps: 

 Sign into Google Search Console

  • If you already have a Google account, visit the Google Search Console website and sign in using your Google account credentials. 
  • If you don’t have a Google account, create one for free and sign in to Google Search Console. 

 Add your website or blog properly

  • Once signed in, click the “Add Property” button on the Search Console dashboard. 
  • Enter your website or blog’s domain or URL-prefix and click “Continue”. 
  • Follow the prompts to verify your ownership of the website or blog. 

Choose a verification method

  • Google Search Console provides several verification methods. 
  • The recommended method is downloading an HTML verification file and uploading it to your website’s root directory.
  • Alternatively, you can choose from other verification methods like HTML tag, DNS verification, or Google Analytics.

Verify your website or blog

  • Follow the specific instructions provided for the chosen verification method.
  • Once the verification is successful, Google Search Console will collect data for your website or blog.

Set up additional features

  • Once you’ve verified your website or blog, you can explore and set up additional features within Google Search Console. 
  • For example, you can submit a sitemap to help Google understand the structure of your website and discover new content quickly. 

How To Use Google Search Console for SEO Success? 

One of the key advantages of using Google Console for SEO is that it assists you in locating and resolving problems that can affect your search engine ranking. As an indispensable asset in an SEO professional’s arsenal, GSC offers many features and functionalities to drive SEO success.  

Here are some key areas that you must focus on: 

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Dashboard

Start by familiarizing yourself with the Google Search Console dashboard. Understand the navigation and various sections such as Performance, Index Coverage, URL Inspection, and more. This will help you navigate the tool efficiently and access your needed data.   

  • Analyze Performance Data

The Performance section provides valuable insights into how your website is performing in Google search results. Utilize the following tips to make the most of this data: 

  • Analyse Search Queries: Dive into the queries that drive traffic to your website. Identify high-performing keywords and leverage them to optimize your content and meta tags. 
  •  Study Click-Through Rates (CTR): Pay attention to pages with high impressions but low CTR. Optimize their meta titles and descriptions to entice users to click through to your website.
  • Monitor Average Position: Identify pages that rank just below the first page of search results. Optimize them further to improve their chances of ranking higher and driving more traffic.
  • Optimize Your Website’s Indexability

The Index Coverage section helps you understand how Google crawls and indexes your website. Use the following tips to ensure optimal indexability: 

  • Resolve Crawl Errors: Identify and fix any crawl errors reported by Google Search Console. These errors could prevent your pages from indexing properly and affect your website’s visibility. 
  •  Submit a Sitemap: Submit an accurate sitemap to Google using the Sitemaps feature. This helps Google discover and index your website’s pages more efficiently.
  • Use the URL Inspection Tool

The URL Inspection tool provides a detailed analysis of how Google sees a specific URL on your website. Here’s how to maximize its potential: 

  • Analyse Indexability: Check if Google indexes your pages. If not, pinpoint the issues and address them promptly. 
  •  Check Mobile-Friendliness: With mobile searches on the rise, ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Identify any mobile usability issues through the tool and take steps to rectify them.   
  • Leverage Structured Data

Structured data is vital in enhancing your website’s visibility in search results. Use these tips to optimize your structured data: 

  • Check for Errors: Verify if there are any issues with your structured data markup using the Rich Results Test in Google Search Console. Fix errors or warnings to ensure proper display of rich snippets in search results. 
  •  Monitor Enhancements: Google Search Console provides insights into various enhanced search features your website is eligible for, such as breadcrumbs, FAQs, and more. Keep an eye on these enhancements and implement them when relevant. 
  • Monitor Security Issues

Ensuring the security of your website as it is very crucial. Use Google Search Console to monitor for any potential security issues: 

  • Review Security Issues Notifications: Regularly check for security issues flagged by Google Search Console. Address security vulnerabilities promptly to protect your website and maintain its SEO integrity. 
  • Implement HTTPS: Enable HTTPS on your website for secure communication with users. Google Search Console guides the migration process and ensures a smooth transition. 

 Conclusion  

There are plenty of tools to support your SEO strategy. But in the end, we believe that Search Console is more than enough to help you optimize your site or blog for search engines. It offers an easy interface, excellent functionality, and great insights.  

If you haven’t already, set up Google Search Console. If you need help setting up your Google Console, contact us!