1

I have recently been getting a lot of errors in Google Search Console saying that my search page has a lot of soft 404s, because whenever it enters a search term into my site that returns no results, the site returns a legitimate page with a 200 status code saying "No results were found." It is my understanding that this is how the site should behave; the user gets a 200 status code because the page they requested was the search page, and it was found and rendered, even though it has no search results on it. 404 errors should be saved for pages that were actually not found. So my question is, why is Google Search console treating these query results as errors, and how do I resolve this issue?

If it makes any difference in the answer, all the errors were from instances where Google entered a search term that ended with ".html". For instance, "/search/?search_term=stbjhhged.html".

  • 3
    Why are you letting Googlebot crawl your search results at all? Google penalizes sites that allow their search results to be crawled and indexed. Google thinks it is bad user experience for users to click from the Google results only to be presented with more search results. See Search results in search results - Matt Cutts You should put Disallow: /search in your robots.txt file. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 6 '17 at 14:45
  • My guess is that Google Search Console is calling it a "soft 404" and is not telling you it is a real 404 error or should be a 404 error. Google uses the term "soft 404" when there is a 200 response, but the page indicates an error (such as "no results found"). – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 6 '17 at 14:47
  • @StephenOstermiller: Thanks! I'd never considered that search results as search results should just be disallowed. I've added the search results page to my robots.txt. – kloddant Nov 6 '17 at 15:19
2

I have recently been getting a lot of errors in Google Search Console saying that my search page has a lot of soft 404s, because whenever it enters a search term into my site that returns no results, the site returns a legitimate page with a 200 status code saying "No results were found."

... why is Google Search console treating these query results as errors?

Google claims a page qualifies as a soft-404 when it believes the text on it means that useful content doesn't exist on that page. It's suggesting to label such pages with the HTTP 404 error code. It is a robot and doesn't know the difference between a not-found query and a not-found file.

It is my understanding that this is how the site should behave; the user gets a 200 status code because the page they requested was the search page, and it was found and rendered, even though it has no search results on it.

There is nothing wrong with putting an HTTP code 200 to these pages. You just have to hide the query section from the search crawlers. This will provide two benefits:

  1. Search engines won't crawl to the search page and automatically insert some random term that turns up the query not found page, and google will complain less in the search console.

  2. Website speed will be faster since you are preventing search engines from making two unnecessary crawls (one to the search engine start page, and one to the query results page).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.