Effects, Causes & Resolves to HARD 404 VS SOFT 404

Effects Causes Resolves To HARD 404 VS SOFT 404


A hard 404 error is a quite common occurrence that you must have encountered while browsing the internet. It is actually a message that informs the user of that particular page browsed couldn’t be opened or accessed. This is agitating to readers as it may seem this could negatively affect the optimization of the page and thereby ranking in the results page as well

Remember: A hard 404 error may not always occur because the page does not exist, it could also be the result of an incorrect web address entered by the user!

Some points to remember:

  • The users will see an error page when the server returns a 404 or 410 response code. This informs both the readers and the crawlers about non-existence of the particular page
  • In such cases Google spends more time on indexing your site and other pages rather than the bot wasting its limited time and resources on pages that do not exist
  • By redirecting users to other potentially important pages, you get rid of the negative consequences of eliminating a page


A soft 404 error occurs when someone is trying to access a URL provided by you, and cannot reach the page or gets a message saying “Page does not exist”

Remember: It may sound ‘soft’ but actually this is more serious and difficult compared to the hard 404 error

Some points to remember:

  • Soft 404 error occurs when the wrong code is returned by the server when a user tries to access a page that does not exist. This error has to be defined by your developer. Just asking him to look into it
  • A soft error is not an official response code, it’s just a label Google adds to a page
  • While crawling pages, Google uses its resources cautiously so that no time is wasted crawling missing pages
  • If the number of soft errors increase in comparison to the number of real live pages, it will negatively impact the organic search performance of the page or website

Tip: Google suggests the use of tools like Fetch as Google or similar tools to check whether the pages in your URL are using the correct HTTP response code


There are instances where the pages are not actually missing, however, something triggers Google to identify it as a missing page. These characteristics include:

a) lack of content
b) having too many similar pages on the site

 What are the Reasons for 404 errors:

  • Linking errors
  • Links to pages that do not exist


If the 404 error is caused by broken links then the most ideal job will be to fix the links. However, finding all the broken links would be a mammoth and time taking task! Also, it becomes even more difficult for sites that have thousands of pages. In such cases, getting in touch with a professional SEO agency comes in handy. With their expertise and systematic approach, you can have these errors not just rectified but also do what is needed all across the site effecting your overall website health and hygiene for better optimization and ranking


When a page no longer exists, there are two ways to solve the problem:

  • Restoring the page, if accidentally removed
  • Redirecting it to the closest page, in case it was removed on purpose


You can track missing pages using Google Analytics. Usually it does not show missing pages by default. Also, you can:

  • Create a report and select pages that would show the title – ‘Error 404 – Page Not Found’
  • Missing pages can also be tracked within Google Analytics by creating a custom content and assigning all 404 pages to a content group


Searching for a particular site on Google. This will help list all pages of that particular site indexed by Google. You could then take a help of an expert SEO agency in Kolkata, who would assist you by checking individually whether the pages are loading or if they are showing the 404 errors

Also, since all the search engines will give you a subset, running it on other search engines will give you a larger list. Furthermore, this list can be checked all together when exported and run on some advance SEO tools

For backlinks there are tools available that export a list of backlinks that link to your domain, that will give you a list of pages that show 404 errors. But you should also use the manual method to reconfirm if something skipped. Though time taking but, definitely worth investing


Usually the crawling tools do not detect a soft 404 error because it does not show as an error in the first place. However, the crawling tools can be used for something else that might, in turn, help in identifying the soft 404 errors

  • Identifying thin content: Some crawling tools report thin content and also show a total word count. It becomes easier for you to sort out URLs based on the total number of words of the content
  • Identifying plagiarism: Some crawling tools are equipped to identify plagiarised content. There is no way the content should be similar to other content available on the search engines. In such cases, you should look into the matter quite seriously

Apart from using crawling tools, you could also take the help of a professional SEO firm to find out the list of pages that show 404s and help you interpret the data for correcting the cases. Once these errors are detected, the next step would be to resolve them. Sometimes the solution may be simple and easy to implement. Like stretching the content and increasing the number of words or making content genuine and original. Apart from these that require common sense to resolve there are many other things that could be considered

  • Combine the pages: Sometimes thin content can be a result of adhering to a specific topic that does not have too much of matter to play around with. In such cases the thin content can be merged with content on other topics with similar issues. Consolidating the content will not only solve the problem of it being thin but will also make the content original and unique. Thus, resolving the problem of plagiarism
  • Identify technical issues that may cause duplicate content: There are crawling tools that find duplicate content issues by looking at URLs. They follow a pattern that shows the issue of duplicate content


According to Google, a soft 404 error is actually not a real 404 error at all, however, Google will deindex these pages if the error is not resolved at the earliest. To avoid such a situation, it is best to crawl the site regularly to see if the 404s occur. Using crawling tools will, thus, be an important SEO practice that should be put to use from time to time

Though soft 404 errors may look like nothing to worry about, they can have a major effect on the customer experience and the search engine ranking. Identifying and fixing such problems so that the right HTTP code is sent can stop it from becoming a major issue

Digital Strategy Consultants (DSC) © 2019 - 2024 All Rights Reserved|About Us|Privacy Policy

Refund Policy|Terms & Condition|Blog|Sitemap