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In the last month, I've got an increased number of "soft 404" errors reported by Google webmaster tools which actually work well for users.

Configuration (maybe useless):

  • I have a website built with rails 3.1
  • Authentication is handled by the gem Devise

Problem:

Google tells me that the link on "ask a boat request" returns a soft 404.

I can't make this form in "POST" (which will solve the problem) because we need to automatically redirect users back to the page after sign in. (the Gem Devise memorizes the "get" link.)

To simplify, the question is: How to protect a private page with authentication, reached with a simple "GET" and not to be penalized by Google as a "soft 404".

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Soft 404s are not a "penalty". Google reports them to you so that can evaluate whether or not they are actually problems. Google's John Mueller has this to say about 404 errors:

404 errors on invalid URLs do not harm your site’s indexing or ranking in any way. It doesn’t matter if there are 100 or 10 million, they won’t harm your site’s ranking. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ch/2011/05/do-404s-hurt-my-site.html

So there is no need to fix them if they are not actually problems.


Having said that, you don't want bots (including Googlebot) to submit your forms. You should block bots from crawling your form submission URLs using robots.txt:

User-Agent: *
Disallow: /boat_requests/
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Comments are not made for but: thank you for correcting this post. + For the link + for the idea about robots.txt. I learn twice. –  Hettomei Nov 6 '13 at 8:56
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You could try applying the nofollow link relationship to the form's action URL and prevent Google from even "following" the URL - if you can't view the page unless you're logged in then there is no reason for a search engine to visit there anyway.

You could also apply noindex on http://en.bemyboat.com/boat_requests/* for example also.

More information on nofollow and how Google treat this.

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