What is a Soft 404 Error?


“A soft 404 means that a URL on your site returns a page telling the user that the page does not exist and also a 200-level (success) code to the browser.”

Basically, you’ve got a page on your site telling visitors that it no longer exists, but at the same time, it’s telling search engines that it does exist.

Confusing, right?

In some cases, it might be a page on your site that doesn’t have much, if any, content. For example, WordPress automatically generates a new URL when you create a new tag for your site. If you’ve created a tag but haven’t yet published any posts using the tag, you’ll have an empty page on your site—and potentially a soft 404 on your hands.

So what’s really happening there? Well, these thin pages are super confusing for Googlebot. When it’s crawling your site and comes across a page that the server says exists but the content suggests otherwise, it thinks, “well, this page doesn’t offer any value to users so it’s not worth indexing” and gives it a soft 404 label.

It’s also possible to get a soft 404 when a page doesn’t exist and when a user lands on it after clicking through in search results, they’re redirect to a page that isn’t relevant to the search context. For example, the user lands on a page and is automatically redirected to the home page.