Keeping up with internet trends, algorithm updates, and search engine optimization tips can be time-consuming. However, they are an essential part of maintaining an online presence. Creating an SEO plan with an expert can help you navigate the online world, keep up to date on current trends, and make sure that your content stays visible with every algorithm change. If you have spent any time on the internet, you know about 404 error codes. These codes tell you that the page you are searching for either no longer exists or cannot be found. If this error message is generated in the wrong context, it can cause what is known as soft 404s, impacting your SEO performance. It is crucial to work with marketers who are familiar with SEO best practices and web developers who can fix this crawl error. MyCity Social utilizes SEO marketing specialists and web developers to help your website rank on Google’s search pages. If you have searched for “SEO services Tampa,” our team can help you.
What Are Soft 404s And What Problems Do They Cause?
Genuine 404 error messages occur when a website’s server indicates that it could not locate the requested web page or URL, informing both browsers and search engines (like Google) that the page does not exist. In these instances, an HTTP 404 standard response code is generated. Sometimes, a search engine can generate these codes out of context. A page may display a 404 message, but the page may not be defined as a 404 page.
Soft error 404s occur when a page that has been deleted or removed displays a “page not found” message but fails to return an actual HTTP 404 status code. If a non-existent page redirects a user to an irrelevant page instead of giving an HTTP 404 status code, soft errors may also occur. This means that the content of a web page is separate from the HTTP response returned by the server. The words on the page and the page’s code are not communicating with each other. This is important to understand when implementing SEO because it determines how Google treats the page. Google’s bots go through a process of crawling and indexing before listing your website’s individual pages in its search engine result pages. True 404 messages prevent Google bots from crawling and indexing the page. Soft messages do not.
If websites return an HTTP status code for non-existent pages other than 404, it negatively affects the website’s performance during an organic search. The more errors a website has in its soft code, the more harmful it is. Without a website sending a valid 404 status code, it tells Google or other search engines that an actual page exists, causing this deleted page to be crawled and indexed. This wastes your crawl budget, “spending” it on pages that do not exist while ignoring pages that do.
A crawl budget is split into crawl rate and crawl demand. Crawl rates exist to protect your server. By limiting the frequency of Google crawling your pages and the speed at which it does it, your server will not crash. Crawl demand is based on how popular your pages are. The more popular your content, the more likely your website will be crawled, impacting its search rankings.
Each site has a limited crawl budget assigned to them by Google. The more soft errors that exist and the more empty pages that are crawled and indexed, the more your budget is used. Essentially, you are wasting your budget on content that does not exist. Therefore, your unique URLs may not be crawled as frequently, hiding them from Google’s search results because your budget has been spent on deleted content.
Soft error codes reduce the visibility of the essential pages on your website, decreasing its performance in organic search results.
The Google Bug And Resolving Soft Errors
With any update, there are new kinks to work out. Recently, the part of Google’s algorithm that detects soft error 404 pages have been updated. This update has caused sites without soft errors to be affected, costing them search traffic from desktop users. Essentially, the algorithm is reading 404 errors that do not exist. While this bug seems to affect web pages without apparent errors, there are steps you can take to ensure that soft errors are not impacting your website traffic.
Bug aside, Google is rather good at notifying you in Google Search Console if they find a soft error on your website. By logging into the search console, you can see a list of 404 errors, both soft and hard. There are four common ways to fix these soft errors.
- Redirect users to a relevant page. This is the easiest way to fix 404 errors on your site.
- Restore the original page if you discover that people are still searching for it. People searching means there is a demand for the deleted page.
- Fix broken internal links on your site by editing them to point to the correct URLs.
- Create a custom 404 page for your website.
These fixes are relatively simple and can be done on your own. However, if you have difficulty or discover many errors, hiring a web designer specializing in SEO may be beneficial. MyCity Social has the best SEO services Tampa has to offer.
If you think a page may be wrongly flagged as a soft error, you can use the URL inspection tool to examine the HTTP code content. If the loaded page appears to be empty, your page may contain items that cannot be loaded, such as images and other non-textual elements). Pages that appear empty after loading can be interpreted as having a soft error. You can quickly resolve this by redoing the content on your page, optimizing it for search engines while also decreasing the amount of time it takes to load.
Technical SEO experts have seen an increase in crawling and rank after fixing 404 errors. Technical SEO allows search engines to discover the value of your website, not only by highlighting chosen keywords but also by creating sites that load quickly, contain no dead links, and are secure. Google highly values these details, and websites with these details are given an extra boost, appearing high on results pages.
Each page should have original content. Pages that have repeated material can be read as spam, also earning you a soft error label. Combining related pages into one content-heavy page is an excellent way to avoid acquiring a soft label.
Some of the most important ways to improve your technical SEO are optimizing your website for mobile devices, increasing your website speed. Also, including an SSL certificate, making it crawlable, eliminating dead links, deleting duplicate content, and submitting your sitemap can help. There are many ways to implement these changes. Hiring a company to do them for you can be helpful, allowing you to focus on other things.
- If a 404 error message is displayed on a page, the server should generate an HTTP 404 standard response code.
- The page content is independent of the HTTP response that is generated.
- If the content on the page and the response generated by the HTTP do not match, a soft error occurs. Non-existent, deleted, or redirects to an irrelevant page also create soft errors.
- The higher the ratio of soft errors to indexed pages, the more significant the impact of the website’s performance during organic searches.
- Resolving these issues can improve both crawl efficiency and the site’s rankings.
Soft 404s can negatively impact your search ranking, lowering your website traffic. They can be a sign of insufficient maintenance and can be interpreted as a lack of respect for your visitors. Regular site maintenance can help keep these 404 errors in check. Slight adjustments to your website can make the most significant impact. MyCity Social has helped businesses throughout the Tampa area optimize their websites for search engines, creating engagement, and driving website traffic. We focus on the whole website, balancing content and web design to create the optimal user experience. MyCity Social has the best SEO services Tampa has to offer. Our search engine optimization has allowed us to outrank multimillion-dollar insurance companies. We are internet marketing experts who know the internet marketing business inside and out. SEO is a marketing field that is concerned with increasing a business’ visibility in organic searches. The service covers all technical and creative aspects needed to improve rankings, generate leads, drive traffic, and raise awareness. While the arrangement and use of keywords are essential, making sure that other websites and search engines link correctly to your site is also important.
Bugs like the Google update happen. You can help lessen the damage by creating a well-maintained website, free of error codes, that Google will rank. For more information on our SEO services, contact us today, and we can help your website reach its fullest potential.