Tuesday, January 29, 2013

404s and Google Webmaster Tools

Trying to fix all the things Google Webmaster Tools complains about would drive you insane. Case in point, it will warn you about soft 404s, which are URLs that don’t exist (or contain no useful content) but don’t return a 404 HTTP error code.

I had a few of these on my site where a rebuild of the postcode database meant a few old postcodes had gone missing (here’s one). Although they weren’t any links to them from anywhere, Google never forgets about pages it’s crawled. I guess I could ask Google to remove all these URLs from its index, but I have a life.

So I started returning 404 errors from these pages, hoping it would make Webmaster Tools happy and make the web a better place. Then a few days later I got a warning message from Google telling me there had been an increase in not found errors on my site. Duh, well yeh, because that’s what you told me to do.

So all I’ve managed to do is move my errors from the soft 404 bucket to the not found bucket. Ho hum. It seems like keeping Webmaster Tools happy is actually impossible.  

1 comment:

Andrew Fielden said...

Oh, you are so so right. Google acts in a very high handed way but as things stand they are the kings of the castle so it benefits us to play by their rules.

They also have a rather annoying tendency to just change things as they go along which can really mess a site up. I had just such an instance for a client and a feed for their 1000 sites on Google places. All of a sudden Google changed the way it did things and bang - all the entries looked nonsensical. The fix was not dramatic but oh boy was it annoying.

I kind of wonder if there is a fix available via the Webmaster Tools API but a quick look didn't turn anything up.

This interests me as I am involved with SEO tools (hence the places feed thing) and I wonder if there is a little bit of code here that can be utilised.

Andrew Fielden