404 Pages & Soft 404s

Custom 404 Pages

404 pages exist to tell users (and search engines) that the requested page could not be found. When optimized with appropriate internal linking and messaging, custom 404 pages can reduce bounce rate and help users navigate to useful pages on the site.

Custom 404 pages should have the following elements:

Concise call to action

Providing a short call to action encourages users to remain onsite and can affect bounce rate and engagement. Calls to action should be concise.

Navigational options

The Custom 404 page should include the same navigational elements that are found on the rest of the site. This will help users continue to engage with your site by encouraging continued browsing.

Suggested pages

If the page that is no longer available has similar products or categories that users could be led to, your custom 404 page should prompt users to visit these similar pages.

Consistent branding

Ensure that the custom 404 page color and other elements match the theme of the rest of the site.

Here is an example of a good custom 404 page  

What is a Soft 404?

When a user requests a page that does not exist, the server returns a 404 not found error, and this response code tells search engines that this pages does not exist. This signal indicates that the page should not be crawled or indexed by search engine spiders. Soft 404s are pages Google has identified as possible 404 pages that return a 200 status code instead of a 404 error. As a result, irrelevant content could be getting indexed.

As soft 404s can be somewhat subjective, they should be manually reviewed to identify if they are actually 404 pages.

Related Topics

HTTP Status Codes

When a request is made to a server for a page on a website, the server returns an HTTP status code in response to the request: 200 OK, 404 Not Found, etc.

Learn more about HTTP status codes