SEO

Difference Between 404 Vs Soft 404 Errors And How To Fix Them.

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To convey the loading-status of the page
to the visitor, the server gives a code called response code. Almost all the pages
that load in a web browser has a response code included in the HTTP headers
which may or may not be visible on the web page.

Links that don’t lead the visitor
anywhere are called as broken links. Codes within the range 400 to 499 indicate
that the page doesn’t load.

404
Error:

One such well-known code is 404-response
code which means that “The page is gone and is not going to show up anytime
soon.” When the server is not able to fetch the requested resource page, it
shows up an HTTP 404 response code which means “Page Not Found”. This 404 error is also termed as traditional 404
error or even hard 404 error.

Causes
For A Hard 404 Error:

  • The most common reason for
    the website to trigger a 404 message is that when the website content has been
    removed or moved to another URL.
  • During the creation
    process, if the URL was written or linked incorrectly, then a 404 error pops
    up.
  • If the server of the website
    is not running, then a 404 error occurs.

How
To View My Hard 404 Errors:

Some of the best and well-known ways to find
the broken links are listed below.

1.
Google Search Console:
Login to your Google
search console account and click on the crawl errors tab. Further click on not
found, and you will be able to see all the links with hard 404 errors.

2.
Dead link checker:
This is one of the
fastest ways to check all the dead links related to a website. Enter the URL of
the website you want to inspect and then start the check. You can check either
the whole website or even a single web page for the 404 errors.  One more similar tool to check all the 404
errors related to a website is W3C Link Checker.

How
To Fix Hard 404 Errors – Website owner’s point of view

Redirection:

If you have changed the URL for a page
or updated the slug for a blog post, then permanently redirect (301
redirection) your visitors to the new page. If you want to make a temporary
shift, then 302 direction should be your choice.

How
To Fix Hard 404 Errors – Visitor’s point of view

To fix a 404 error, try the below solutions
in the order they are listed.

1. Reloading the page can fix the 404
issues sometimes.

2. Check if you have entered the correct
URL irrespective of everything.

3. If you are looking for any specific
page on the website, then use the website’s search function.

4. Sometimes the problem can lie within
your browser. So, try to delete the browser’s cache and cookies and then access
the page.

5. If none of the above solutions work,
then contact the respective website owner using the ‘Contact us’ page.

Soft
404 Error:

If a page returns a soft 404 error, then
it means that the page has either little or no content. The server returns a
successful response code 200 but search engines like Google, Bing and etc..,
determine that the page doesn’t contain the expected content.

Putting the definition in laymen terms,
a page with soft 404 tells visitors that it no longer exists, whereas the same
page tells the search engines that it exists.

How
and Why does this happen?

For example, if you have a Word Press
site, create an empty category or tag with no posts in it, your website will
have an empty new page which results in generating a soft 404 error.

Do you know why this happens? I’ll tell
you why. These thin pages super confuse Google bots. When Google starts crawling
this page, the server says that the page exists but seeing the thin content,
Google thinks, “ Hmmm!! This page doesn’t offer any value to users. It is not
worth indexing this page.” Thinking this way, it throws a soft 404 error.

Hence, it is your responsibility to fix
your content in such a way that it is helpful to visitors.

How
To View My Soft 404 Errors:

1. Login to Google Search Console.

2. Select your website.

3. Select the crawl tab and then choose
the crawl errors report.

4. Your crawl errors report includes all
the errors including soft 404.

Do
Soft 404 errors really matter?

Both Soft 404 errors and hard 404 errors
can harm your SEO ranking. Google created the soft 404 error label which is
literally a label but not an official HTTP response code. Soft 404 errors are
harder compared to a hard 404 error. This sort of errors tells search engines
about the content quality.

For example, let us consider that you
run an online store that sells sandals. A customer is searching for black sandals
and clicks your page (URL). Since there is a real page with that URL, the
server will load the page but the page says “No products matching your search.”
This is not at all helpful for site visitors and also annoys some of them as
they expect for black sandals but instead discover that there are no sandals
available at all.

Since search engines want to spend time
only on working content, Google never indexes and links these web pages.

How
To Fix Soft 404 Errors:

There are high chances that you can run
into soft 404 errors. Figure out the reason and fix the soft 404 error. Below
are some of the ways to fix a Soft 404.

1.
Redirect

In case your content doesn’t exist, then
you can redirect your URL either permanently (301 redirection) or temporarily
(302 redirection) to a new location.

If you have a page that is not at all beneficial
to the visitors and want that particular page not to appear in search results,
then by adding some code to the robots.txt file, you can stop search engines
from crawling that particular page.

2.
Make Your Page Valid

If you have created a category in which
there are no posts/few posts, then search engines trigger a soft 404 error. To
avoid this, add some informative and beneficial content that the user is
looking for.

For example, let us assume that a user
is searching for a Digital Marketing course. You want to make sure that your
page contains all the details regarding the course. When Google is indexing, it
takes this thing into consideration and doesn’t show the error.

3.
Make It A Hard 404:

If your URL contains no content, ensure
that the website is returning the appropriate response code. Later when you
return 404s, create a customized 404 page and explain the situation to the
visitors who stumble upon your page. This gives more improved user experience.

Conclusion:

It is best to regularly crawl and check your site for any hard
404 or soft 404 errors. Further, fix them quickly to keep the SEO health of
your site in check. These are just a handful of ways through which you can
resolve soft 404 errors. If you have any other useful tips, please do let us
know by your comments below!

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