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How to Fix Soft 404 Errors to Improve Site Health



What is Soft 404 Errors

Soft 404 errors are often overlooked but can significantly affect your website's health. These errors occur when a page returns a "200 OK" status code, indicating that the page is available, but the content is missing or irrelevant. In this article, we'll explore what soft 404 errors are, why they matter, and how you can fix them to improve your site's overall performance and user experience.

Understanding Soft 404 Errors


A soft 404 error happens when a webpage tells a browser that it loaded successfully (status code 200), but the content on the page suggests that the page doesn't exist. This can confuse search engines and users, leading to a host of problems.


Common causes of soft 404 errors include:

  • Incorrect server configurations
  • Pages with no content or very little content
  • Placeholder pages with no real value

3. Why Soft 404 Errors Matter

Impact on SEO

Soft 404 errors can harm your website's SEO. Search engines like Google might perceive your site as lower quality if they encounter many soft 404 errors, leading to lower rankings in search results.

User Experience

From a user perspective, encountering a soft 404 error can be frustrating. It signals a poorly maintained site, potentially driving users away and increasing bounce rates.

Identifying Soft 404 Errors

Using Google Search Console

Google Search Console is an invaluable tool for identifying soft 404 errors. It provides a report that shows URLs flagged as soft 404s, allowing you to address them directly.

Other Tools and Methods

Other tools like Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, and SEMrush can also help identify these errors. Manual checks, such as browsing the site and using server logs, are also effective.

Fixing Soft 404 Errors

Proper 404 Page Creation

Ensure that your website returns a proper 404 status code for pages that don’t exist. Create a custom 404 page that is helpful and user-friendly, guiding visitors back to other parts of your site.


For pages that have been moved or deleted, use 301 redirects to point users and search engines to the correct location. This helps preserve link equity and provides a better user experience.

Content Restoration

If a page was mistakenly flagged as a soft 404, restore relevant content to make it useful again. Ensure that the content meets the user's intent and adds value.

Best Practices for Managing 404 Errors

Regular Monitoring

Regularly monitor your site for 404 errors using tools like Google Search Console. Addressing these errors promptly helps maintain site health.

Consistent URL Structure

Maintain a consistent and logical URL structure to avoid broken links and soft 404 errors. Avoid unnecessary changes to URLs.

Quality Content Creation

Ensure that every page on your site has quality, relevant content. Avoid creating pages with thin or duplicate content that might be flagged as soft 404s.


Fixing soft 404 errors is crucial for maintaining a healthy website. By understanding what these errors are, why they matter, and how to fix them, you can improve both your SEO performance and user experience. Regular monitoring and maintenance are key to keeping your site error-free and user-friendly.


Q: What is the difference between a hard 404 and a soft 404 error?

A: A hard 404 error returns a proper 404 status code indicating the page doesn’t exist, while a soft 404 error returns a 200 status code despite the page being empty or irrelevant.

Q: Can soft 404 errors affect my site's ranking on Google?

A: Yes, Google may perceive a site with many soft 404 errors as lower quality, potentially impacting your search rankings.

Q: How often should I check for 404 errors on my site?

A: Regularly check for 404 errors, ideally monthly, to ensure your site remains healthy and user-friendly.

Q: What tools can I use to identify soft 404 errors?

A: Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, and SEMrush are excellent tools for identifying soft 404 errors.

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