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.
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.
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 redirections) 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.
In case your content doesn’t exist, then you can redirect your URL either permanently (301 redirections) or temporarily (302 redirections) 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.
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!