No one is fond of bugs especially those 404 bugs that cause ranking issues and traffic loss. Since April 9th, Google made slight changes to how the tech giant detects soft 404s and this may be the cause of innocent websites losing their rankings. 

What is a Soft 404?

This 404 error code is sent by a web page to the search engine informing them the page no longer exists. In constraint, a 200 response code is a message confirming the page the user is looking for actually does exist. Therefore, a soft 404 code is when the search engine responds with a 202 response code for a website page that has barely any content and should in fact be returning a 404 error code page. Basically, with a soft 404 error code on a page Google decides to treat the issues as if it doesn’t exist. 

Google’s Soft 404

Google’s Senior Webmaster Trend Analysts, John Mueller, acknowledged that recently there have been issues which are causing a drop in desktop ranking of some websites. 

A question was asked to Mueller about this ranking drop as this Soft 404 bug should not be seeing ranking drops. 

“We got a serious problem with a project at the moment since last week. We got only for the Google desktop bot, we got soft 404 errors. The rankings daily decreasing only for desktop rankings and we don’t know what is error. We can’t find a solution for that. There are other people who have similar problems.”

– Olaf Klopp 

Mueller responded by saying, “With the other people I was able to pick up the URLs and send them to the team and I think they’re looking into what is happening there.” Additionally, Mueller asked Klopp for the domain name to send to the Google team to assist, yet Klopp declined as the site belonged to a big brand. 

Mueller might have obliged to then offer information about what was going on. 

“…I think the team has found some things that they’re looking into. But having more examples is always really useful.”

– Mueller 

Following this, Jordan Silton shared more details regarding the Soft 404 on Twitter which shows the Soft 404 issues on Search Console and the resulting ranking declines on desktop. 

Here are his tweets:

(Image Source: Twitter)

Why should you care?

The issues related to Google’s algorithm related to how it detected the Soft 404 pages have been updated and this update has unfortunately caused innocent sites to lose their search traffic and rankings. At CleverClicks, we wanted to make you aware of this issue and have checked, and rechecked our client’s sites. This may not affect every website but some websites sure did experience the ugly side of bugs. 

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