Google has announced that they have implemented Soft 404’s as a way to indicate pages that appear to be 404 (page not found) but come up as 200 (Good Response). My initial reaction was that’s great news and should help me out when I forgot to include a 404 header response. So then I went to webmaster tools to have a look.
One example of a Soft 404, according to Google, is this news page about A.J. Burnett of the Yankees. This is interesting for two reasons, 1) This page is 683 days old, 2) It is definitely NOT a 404 page and has relevant content. I have about 50 or so of these pages that I think are incorrectly identified as Soft 404’s.
Though, perhaps I didn’t have enough content on the page about Burnett and need a bit more information for Google. How about a page that shows all the news collected for Joseph Addai in September 2009? This too is an example of a Soft 404.
Does Google not like the fact that I show/hide content and only list the first few items by default? Even if they didn’t like how it’s displayed, why would it be listed as a Soft 404?
I am sure many of you have similar situations popping up on your sites as well. At first glance Soft 404’s sounded great, but in actuality they need a LOT of work in the accuracy department.