Google Webmaster Tools Adds Soft 404 Pages

Google announced they added “soft” or “crypto” 404s to their “crawl errors” report in Google Webmaster Tools. Soft 404s or crypto 404s are page not found pages that return the server response code of 200. Technically, 404 pages should return a server status code 404, which means page not found. Sometimes webmasters make a mistake […]

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Google announced they added “soft” or “crypto” 404s to their “crawl errors” report in Google Webmaster Tools.

Soft 404s or crypto 404s are page not found pages that return the server response code of 200. Technically, 404 pages should return a server status code 404, which means page not found. Sometimes webmasters make a mistake by creating custom not found pages but forget to return the server status code of 404, to help the search engines know that this page is a 404.

Google’s new report helps you locate this errors and shows that Google clearly understands that some webmasters set 404 pages as 200.

Google said, “Soft 404s can limit a site’s crawl coverage by search engines because these duplicate URLs may be crawled instead of pages with unique content.” Google added tips for 404 pages:

  1. Check whether you have soft 404s listed in Webmaster Tools
  2. For the soft 404s, determine whether the URL:
    1. Contains the correct content and properly returns a 200 response (not actually a soft 404)
    2. Should 301 redirect to a more accurate URL
    3. Doesn’t exist and should return a 404 or 410 response
  3. Confirm that you’ve configured the proper HTTP Response by using Fetch as Googlebot in Webmaster Tools
  4. If you now return 404s, you may want to customize your 404 page to aid your users. Our custom 404 widget can help.

About the author

Barry Schwartz
Staff
Barry Schwartz is a technologist and a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics.

In 2019, Barry was awarded the Outstanding Community Services Award from Search Engine Land, in 2018 he was awarded the US Search Awards the "US Search Personality Of The Year," you can learn more over here and in 2023 he was listed as a top 50 most influential PPCer by Marketing O'Clock.

Barry can be followed on X here and you can learn more about Barry Schwartz over here or on her personal site.

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