I host a couple of wiki based sites, so there is a lot of content at various stages of generation, and lots of links to pages that have yet to be created. Of course, these links are generating soft 404 "errors" when Googlebot crawls the site.

There was a good answer given in: How to fix soft 404 in an Ajax Driven website? The suggestion was to put a no-index command in the robots.txt for each of the not yet created pages.

However that sort of defeats the purpose of the flexibility inherent in the wiki format. The wiki shows the "missing" page links in red, so this is not a user experience problem, but rather, it is kind of the point of a wiki, to encourage further content growth.

So I guess the question is "does it matter?" How worried would you be about this if it was happening to you? I have never really had great rankings, and I'm wondering if this could be part of the problem?

  • The new Google Search Console beta is making soft 404 errors more visible than they used to be. I noticed a bunch on my site yesterday. Feb 1, 2018 at 18:01
  • I personally find it very distracting when wikis have lots of suggested links in the text I'm trying to read. Regardless of SEO, from a usability standpoint I'd try to minimize the number of uncreated pages that the Wiki links to. Feb 1, 2018 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


Soft HTTP 404s errors in search console are pages returning HTTP 200 Ok response codes in pages that Google consider with low value to the user. In this Google help forum about soft 404s they states the following:

Returning a success code, rather than 404/410 (not found) or 301 (moved), is a bad practice.

So to answer your question in short: Yes, soft 404 errors do cause SEO problems.

It is also evident that Google treats 404 and soft 404 http errors the same way and that Google will deindex those pages if they aren’t fixed quickly.

My Recommendation

A quick solution would be, you can create a example.com/useful-template with 90% of the content that will be reused, just change 50% title Like "Content for Water Supply coming up" and the last paragraph. Then with this template apply it to all the other pages in "development" and make sure that you add a canonical tag pointing to /useful-template like:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/useful-template">

Happy wiking ;)

  • perhaps I'm misunderstanding something, but isn't the canonical thing used for "duplicate content"?
    – ken
    Feb 5, 2018 at 21:14
  • The "empty pages" in a wiki are decidely NOT duplicate content. Rather they are missing content, but in a good way. Look at wikipedia for example. If you come across a red link, you know that the wikipedia community wants a page created. This will result in people considering created such a page to fill in the missing desired material. Perhaps, if google's policies are penalizing every wiki in the world, it might make sense for google to adjust their algorithm for wiki based sites.
    – ken
    Feb 5, 2018 at 21:21
  • @ken I understand, and you are right, they are not duplicate content. You are going to make them duplicate to avoid soft 404, then you need the canonical. For your case, is the best SEO strategy and solution I can think of. Of course, after the community or you update the content of a particular page you must remove the canonical tag for that particular page.
    – Raul Reyes
    Feb 6, 2018 at 0:02
  • ah yes I get it now! Put a temporary placeholder on the empty pages, with a canonical link. That idea has merit and I will consider that as a good option. Thanks!
    – ken
    Feb 8, 2018 at 19:22

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