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I've been doing a big mistake (sending 200 status for 404 pages : Soft 404).

I didn't know what to do so I removed all the website from google search and I wanted to restart from scratch, pretty stupid decision.

After that I fixed something in my script and my 404 pages send 404 header now. and recovered all the links that I had previously deleted. I've also submitted new sitemaps.
The problem I'm getting is that my ranking dropped dramatically. enter image description here How can I recover from this huge fall ?
Do you see that I'm actually recovering ?

  • well, you don't seem to be at 0 right now, that's encouraging. Do you still have missing pages? or wrong links? – PatomaS Mar 5 '14 at 11:42
  • when I do site:mysite.com I find some 404 pages – Aymane Shuichi Mar 5 '14 at 11:43
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You have to wait, be sure there are no wrong links any more, send an accurate sitemap, work on your content, and, did I mention wait?

That's totally true. You have to wait, wait and wait (Time is based on the quantity of the pages that no longer exist). Google have to recrawl a 404 / 410 webpage multiple times, before it is removed from the index. It took me more than 5 months to get rid of all old non existing links.

Considering your comment, there is one more thing you can do that is considered to speed up things, not recovering the ranking, but making those results disappear, create 301 redirections for all those false results that you still see on Google to your homepage

I would not suggest that. It will not speed up things. It will make them more complicated.

Only if you have a new unique url for an old url, do a 301 redirection. Eg:

  • mysite.com/sports.html [old]
  • mysite.com/sports [new]

If your content does not longer exist (eg: deleted articles), then send a 410/404 error code (Not soft 404), and display a custom error page, in order to keep visitors a little longer on your website.

Do not redirect non existing pages to home page. It confuses both users and search engines (High bounce rate, low stay time, wrong keywords, and it may be a reason for deranking)

Example:

Let's say I am searching "Bind9 configuration tutorial". I click at a link on Google with the title "How to install bind9", and then I don't see the article that I clicked to see, but I am automatically redirected to the home page. It's 100% sure that I will bounce, and I will continue my search to Google for other results related to my search.

For non existing pages, use custom error pages, and display useful information, not your menu or other random links, but links that are useful for the visitor. Try to provide some links that are related to the terms or the article that the visitor searched.

You could extract these terms, either by the url (if you use keywords on url) or either by the referral field, if the search engine sent the terms that the visitor searched.

From my experience when I did a redirection to the home page, users bounced a lot. Bounce is bad. But when I displayed custom error pages with interesting links, visitors clicked the links, did not bounce and they stayed longer on my website.

Also you can have a look at stackexchange error page. Try this url: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/590378/seo-custom-404-pages

  • I redirect users to a search page with keywords as the same as the not found pages, for example : they went to Agatha books , i redirect them to find/agatha+books Is this ok ? and there are results displayed – Aymane Shuichi Mar 10 '14 at 10:47
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There is no sure or guaranteed way.

You have to wait, be sure there are no wrong links any more, send an accurate sitemap, work on your content, and, did I mention wait?

If there are no more errors, you should get back to your past position/ranking soon. At least close to it.

Considering your comment, there is one more thing you can do that is considered to speed up things, not recovering the ranking, but making those results disappear, create 301 redirections for all those false results that you still see on Google to your homepage (or the appropriate URL), that will help the crawler take note that the URL is not working any more, that the resource doesn't exist and that a new resource should be considered, since you are going to be using resources that actually exist, like your home page, everything would be OK from the perspective of landing on non existent pages.

Another method, is to use 410 redirections. This means that the resource is gone and it is never coming back.

The difference is that 301 redirects to a new resource gives a better experience to the user, but gives a false information since the resource is not really just moved, it's gone. On the other hand, 401 gives an accurate message, the resource is gone, but lives the user wandering and wondering. If you decide to use a 410, you should have a well crafted 410 page that has links to the home page and a good explanation about the missing resource. You can have more links on it, of course.

Combine both methods, 301 and sitemap or 410 and sitemap.

  • That what makes you nervous, the solution is always waiting. – Aymane Shuichi Mar 5 '14 at 11:44
  • yes, no doubt about that. – PatomaS Mar 5 '14 at 11:46

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