I have a redirect script on my site which sends visitors to an affiliate site. However in the last month I've noticed that Google webmaster tools is reporting my outbound links as a 404 error. Here is the breakdown on how its setup:

My outbound links are coded like this:

<a href="/f/c123" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Link Title</a>

My redirect script will then perform a 302 redirect to the affiliate link

Originally I had the affiliate links (CJ) directly in the HTML, however I noticed over time that this had some impact on my sites traffic. So I changed them to a redirect script and my traffic returned. This seemed to work with no issues for over 1 year but now I'm getting soft 404 errors in Google webmaster tools.

I did try adding a rule in my robots.txt to block any links starting with /f/ but I'm not sure if this will help or Google will still report soft 404 errors.

I am considering as possible options to change the a tag to a button tag and use an onclick event to load the link.

  • Can you provide the URL to a page with one of these links on? Apr 26, 2013 at 12:18
  • 1
    Instead of replacing your a-tags to button-tags, how bout setting your a href's to rel="nofollow"? That should remedy the soft-404's for good...
    – David K.
    May 7, 2013 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


If you blocked the redirect path by robots.txt you probably solved the problem(from the technical part)

The soft 404 warnings at GWT will still appear, as there is 90+- days delay in Google Webmaster Tools(as John Mueller mentioned in one of the webmaster central hangouts)

I don`t think that removing the nofollow tag will solve the soft 404 error, as Google Treats affiliate links as unnatural links and devalue them algorithmically(and recommend adding nofollow tag if you worried about it) Source: Google+ post

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