Last week, Google made some updates to how it detects soft 404s, and now, this subtle change has led to ranking issues for some websites, according to Search Engine Roundtable.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that the change had occurred in a recent webmaster hangout when the issue was brought up by participant Olaf Olleck Kopp.
Kopp didn’t get into specifics, but further explained his predicament on Twitter.
@JohnMu In one project we have the problem that the desktop bot throws a Soft 404 when checking the URL via the GSC, but everything is ok for the mobile bot. With the result that the desktop rankings are decreasing significantly but not mobile.
— Oᒪᗩᖴ KOᑭᑭ ✌️ 👍 (@Olaf_Kopp) April 7, 2021
Mueller responded, saying: “As far as I could tell from from the information I have so far, is it’s essentially a small change we made in the soft 404 detection and how that’s picking things up in weird ways.”
Mueller also added that “with the other people I was able to pick up the URLs and send them to the team and I think they’re looking into what is happening there.”
Other digital marketing industry folk then took to Twitter to demonstrate the Search Console issues they experienced with the soft 404s, and the subsequent decrease in Google Search desktop rankings.
Google’s Soft 404 detecting issue continues. @JohnMu and @Olaf_Kopp were able to discuss in the SEO office hours on Friday (https://t.co/KUhyQt9hYy). @searchliaison this is increasingly impacting our site, and it would be helpful if you can comment on a timeline for resolution pic.twitter.com/iwKxCQoCFL
— Jordan Silton (@jsilton) April 12, 2021
It’s unclear whether the soft 404 update is only causing reporting issues in Google Search Console, or if it is actually what has been affecting rankings.
Search Engine Roundtable writer Barry Schwartz asked Mueller this directly on Twitter, but has yet to receive a response. Stay tuned.
READ MORE: Soft 404 Errors Guide