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I own a free press release website with over 15k articles. i am in the process of cleaning up the site for spam and have removed over 100 pages but it causes soft 404 errors in Google webmasters console.

I get about 100 uniques every day from Google as organic traffic, recently the site was hit by algorithmic penalty.

Does lots of Soft 404 errors cause Google penalty or rankings drop?

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    Soft 404 errors do take those pages out of the SERPs, however, I do not expect a penalty as a result. Please do consider that PR sites are seen as low quality sites used to manipulate SERP placement by other sites. Google does not like them. In fact, they were largely penalized a couple of years ago and I suspect that none of the penalized sites have recovered but shut down instead. You will need to research to know the details and trends for this type of site. This maybe your problem. Cheers!! – closetnoc Nov 30 '17 at 19:12
  • In addition to spammy press releases, press releases also tend to be duplicated in many places. I doubt that your drop in traffic has anything to do with soft 404s. It sounds like it is more likely related to poor content. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 1 '17 at 10:55
  • @StephenOstermiller I was told that Google is okay with duplicate news content but i am dealing with removing thin spammy content – pbu Dec 1 '17 at 15:14
  • See: What is duplicate content and how can I avoid being penalized for it on my site? Google only indexes one copy of a press release, so if your site isn't the most authoritative, it won't get indexed there. If you have too many pages that are not indexed because they are duplicated from elsewhere, Google may decide your site is low quality. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 1 '17 at 16:04
  • Thank you @StephenOstermiller. I am working very hard to recover. – pbu Dec 1 '17 at 16:49
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404 will not influence your positions on SERP, but you should fix soft 404 by sending proper response code.

How Google treats 404s and 410s, you can see at Matt Cutts video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp5Nf8ANfOw

About your dropping, conduct an audit of your backlinks. Take a deep dive into whats going on out there: spammy websites, dead websites, over optimized anchor texts (you should check on site internal linking anchors too). After you find all the bad guys in your backlink profile, submit them to Google by using Disavow Tool.

If you got penalized by Algorithm Update, to recover will take some time:

  • Panda Update - roll out once a month - you should improve website usability and content quality - it will take month or so to recover.
  • Penguin Update - roll out at certain times of the year - reduce over-optimized content on site, improve anchors, clean up spammy backlinks - recovery will have to wait for next algorithm update, which occur every 2-4 months.

Extra note

Since you have more than 15K of pages, look for broken external links too. Large amount of broken external links can also lead to traffic drop.

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