Difference between 404 & Soft 404 Errors

Difference between 404 & Soft 404 Errors

No matter how attractive your website is with all the relevant content, there are still a few places that end up on a negative note for the users. The technical design & function of your website is also important just like the content when it comes to creating traffic for your website. To know all the differences between 404 & soft 404 Errors, keep reading this article till the end.

While maintaining your website it is also important to let go of the outdated & irrelevant pages to let search engines know if the content is gone or been moved. This is the main reason why it is important to understand the difference between “hard” & “soft” 404 errors.

Now let’s check out the major between the two:

404 error:

Generally, a server gives a much different response code to communicate the loading status of the page. The most known code is the 404-response code. The codes between 400-499 indicate that the page didn’t load. The 404 code means that the page you are trying to load is actually gone & isn’t coming back anytime soon.

A 404 error is also known as a hard 404 error. It’s a signal to the user that the page couldn’t be found or it’s temporarily down. This may occur because the page doesn’t exist. 404 errors are not always the fault of the website as it might happen that a person types in a wrong web address or URL. Suppose you have a URL for a page that isn’t anymore, its best to configure it to return as hard 404 error which would tell both users & search engines that the file couldn’t be found.

A 404 error can be customized in HTML to enhance the experience of the users. No doubt they would face difficulty in surfing the web page, but providing them with links to other pages, providing needful information, linking them back to homepage these are the possible ways to keep the viewers engaged on your web page in spite of the 404 error.

Soft 404 Error

As contrary to its name soft 404 errors create more difficulty on your website’s visibility than a hard 404 error. A soft 404 error happens when a wrong code (denoted as the 200 response code) is returned by the server when the user tries to access a page that no longer exists on your website. The problem is even if your website displays an error page to the readers, it still needs to return the right error code to let the search crawlers ignore the page.

In case of a website’s server doesn’t return a 404 code, the search engine crawlers will automatically let the users know that the page doesn’t exist meanwhile try to spend time attempting to index that content. The more the soft 404 errors, the higher are the chances of negative impact on the overall performance of your website.

A soft 404 error is an unofficial response code sent to a web browser. There are also cases like lack of content on the page or having too many similar pages on the site which may lead the search engine to misidentify it as a soft 404 error.

Soft 404 errors are often discouraged as they out the users and search engines in a dilemma. The users instead of seeing the page with all the branding & design of your website, get an error code that they don’t understand while in case of Hard 404 error, the users are being told that the page doesn’t exist but with a 200 ok error i.e. soft error they will see a bunch of technical stuff which is beyond everyone’s knowledge.

Impact on SEO

To keep the SEO health of your site in check, fix both the kinds of errors i.e. by regularly crawling your website.

The hard 404 error does affect the SEO, not because of the 404 pages but the links which contain the URLs pointing to the 404s because these links create a bad experience.

When the pages with soft 404 errors are indexed, all the positive benefits of well crafted, the insightful page won’t be of any use as the no. of good pages indexed will be a handful. So it’s best to eliminate the soft 404 errors so that you can have a higher ranking.

Soft 404 error, in the end, would impact both the search engine ranking as well as customer experience. One of the ways to fix this is by identifying, locating & adjusting your pages so that the right HTTP code is sent.

In the end its the search ranking which determines how much traffic is sent to your site so it’s essential to optimize your pages and deliver the best to both the users and web crawlers.

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