Did you know that returning a “results not found” page can lead to a Google search by keeping the page soft 404 and then removing it from the search results? We know that Google has recently changed the way configures soft 404 pages, but this tidbit is not a new change.
In both a Google Webmaster Help wire and a Twitter thread, there are examples of Google’s popularity for displaying soft 404 pages on pages with, for example, messages – no results found or a similar language was used on that page. When you clear this message, the soft 404 response disappears.
Here is a tweet that shows a soft 404 peak:
The Google Soft 404 error is back @JohnMu @searchliaison? I see a huge spike across multiple domains. Individual pages disappear, URL checker hits or is missing “Something went wrong. If the problem persists, try again in a few hours.” Is this completely resolved for you @jsilton? pic.twitter.com/qmJMTJJ3XF
– Tom Rothwell (@trothwell_null) June 30, 2021
John is then asked if this could be:
It could definitely throw us away.
– 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) July 9, 2021
And then by making a change on the site to reduce soft 404 disks and improve indexing:
Thanks again, Tom! We made changes to the swiftsearch container and have seen improvements 🙏 pic.twitter.com/VlEGcGvEw2
– George Aston (@GeorgeSAston) July 19, 2021
This is a similar story Google Webmaster Help.
Anyway, just keep this in mind and it makes sense, of course. But detecting this can be difficult for a webmaster.