Google Soft 404 Detection Bug May Be Causing Ranking Issues In Search

Over the past several days, I think starting around April 9th, Google made some change to how it detects soft 404s and that change may be causing ranking issues for some sites in Google Search.

A soft 404 is when Google sees a page that returns a 200 (everything is normal) status code but Google thinks the page should return a 404 (page not found) status code.

John Mueller of Google somewhat confirmed the issue in last Friday’s video hangout when he was asked about it at the 10:11 mark into the video. John said “As far as I could tell from from the information I have so far is it’s essentially a small change we made in the soft 404 detection and how that’s picking things up in weird ways.”

Olaf Olleck Kopp who asked the question couldn’t share specific details but said “the rankings daily decreasing only for desktop ranking.”

Jordan Silton shared a lot more detail on Twitter showing the Search Console issues with the soft 404s and the resulting in desktop ranking declines in Google Search. Here are his tweets:

John said he sent these examples and some others to the team to investigate.

Here is the video embed where this conservation came up:

Here is the transcript:

Olaf: We got a serious problem with the project at the moment, since last week. We got a we got only for the desk Google desktop bot we got soft 404 errors and we so we the rankings daily decreasing only for desktop ranking and we don’t know what is what is it what is the error, we can’t find a find in a solution for that.

John: I think you also posted on Twitter. There are some other other people who had similar problems.

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 what is happening there. But if you want maybe you can just drop your domain in the chat here and then I can pass it out. Okay well if you want to send it to me in in some other way let me know, I am happy to pass it on.

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

Olaf: Is it is it is a Google problem or our website problem?

John: As far as I could tell from from the information I have so far is it’s essentially a small change we made in the soft 404 detection and how that’s picking things up in weird ways.

Olaf did also post this on Twitter:

There is also this more detailed thread at Google Webmaster Help that others are talking about.

I did ask John for confirmation but I am waiting to hear back:

Forum discussion at Twitter and Twitter & Google Webmaster Help.

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