One SEO professional asked John Mueller about soft 404 errors in Google Search Console and where they may be coming from.
They explained that in their GSC backend, there are some sudden increasing soft 404s in the errors section of the coverage report.
They took some sample URLs to test in the mobile friendly test tool. And the page is returning as mobile-friendly. However, the version of the title and description in the tool appears to be one from a long, long time ago.
They couldn’t use the live URL inspection in GSC, so they use the extension to monitor the user agent of Google in order to check the source code of the sample pages.
All looks good to them. Even the title is new, and so is the description. In this case, they could not find the reason for these increasing soft 404s.
They were wondering if John Mueller had any advice to solve the problem.
John explained that sometimes, the soft 404s are things like products that are out of stock or not available anymore. And these types of things can also be picked up as soft 404s.
It’s also possible that the page is empty or that there’s some other error that’s in the DOM (Document Object Model) of the page.
All of these types of errors could be seen as a sign of soft 404 errors.
If you’re seeing a rise in the number of soft 404 errors, John’s guess is that something in the classifiers (within GSC) for the soft 404 errors were slightly updated. And Google is picking up slightly different patterns on the website.
Sometimes using the inspection tools can help you to figure out what may be happening there.
This happens at approximately the 18:09 mark in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
SEO Professional 5 18:09
Hey, John. Good afternoon. So I’ve got one question about some soft 404 errors. So in our GSC backend, there are some sudden increasing errors of soft 404 URLs in the coverage report. And we use some- we took some sample URLs to test in the mobile friendly test tool. And the page is mobile-friendly.
However, the version in the title and description of the test page is showing in this tool seems to be the older version from a long, long time ago. And since we couldn’t use the live URL inspection in GSC, we use the extension to monitor the user agent of Google to check the source code of the sample pages. So all looks good to us. Even the title is new, and so is the description. So in this case, we couldn’t find the reason for these increasing soft 404s. So any advice or help to identify this problem?
It would be useful to have some examples. Sometimes the soft 404s are things like products that are out of stock or not available anymore. And those kinds of things can also be picked up as soft 404s. It could also be that the page is empty or that there’s some other error that’s in the DOM of the page.
And that’s something where sometimes using the inspection tools helps you to figure out what might be happening there. And if you look at the full content in the rendered HTML, sometimes it doesn’t make any sense. And if it’s something where you, you’re like, well, everything on my site is okay, then those will be really useful examples to have for that. With regards to the old title being shown, that would need to be from your side somewhere.
Because the mobile friendly test and the URL inspection test, they don’t use any cached data to kind of display the information that we find there, they really pull that information fresh from your server. And it can sometimes happen, depending on your setup, that you have a content delivery network that for whatever reason, maybe one of the nodes has stale data. And from that I’ve seen in the past that you’d see a difference like that. And usually over time, that kind of stale node fixes itself. But that might be something to double-check as well.
SEO Professional 5 21:38
Okay, good. So you are seeing that, when we test a page through this live URL, the cached page will not be tested. Right?
It’s a live fetch, yes.
SEO Professional 5 21:54
Okay. So at the first time, we thought it’s maybe something about the cached page. But also, like I said, the older title and description is the older one like, maybe many, many years ago. So we dropped that one reason.
I think if you see it in the search results, that might be from the cache page. But if you’re using the mobile friendly test, or the Inspect URL, it’s really a live fetch.
SEO Professional 5 22:27
So what about the live test URL inspection in GSC? Is it also testing the live URL?
Good. One more question is about this tool. When will this tool be fixed? Approximate time? Yeah, because we kinda depend on this tool to test like some, maybe test some live problems. Yeah.
How do you mean fixed?
SEO Professional 5 23:03
Yeah, because we see some problems showing something went wrong when we use the test. That one is shown.
I don’t know. I haven’t really heard anything recently about that. I assume that was fixed. But I can double-check with the team.