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Soft 404 bug has returned?
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Hi all, starting to think that the Soft 404 bug reported in April has returned.

Since the start of June we had a slight uptick in soft 404s being reported, in recent days this has significantly spiked. We saw this larger uptick start from the 6th of June 2021 and then roughly every 3 to 4 days at ~2-3 thousand URLs. This has resulted in pages previously ranked #1, #2 for particular keywords being completely removed from Google.


Now this is where it’s strange. The example URLs provided are so widespread, there’s no consistency in the type of page that would help us identify the root cause.


We’ve kicked off a validation process to see if this would self correct but after 4 days the process is still running. While I’ve seen long running validation processes before this seems to be a new winner (2nd of July in Aus).



Diagnosing the problem
If anyone has suggestions on this it’d be greatly appreciated. What we’ve ran through so far:

  • Reviewed third party additions - This includes ads. This was done to ensure there wasn’t any “transient failure” occurring. Something that may block the loading of pages. While JS errors exist (always do especially with ads) none are render blocking.
  • Check pages have referring links and can be accessed by multiple avenues (as a user would). Menus, breadcrumbs, indexes all provide links. URL Inspection tool also confirms this.
  • Spam algorithm changes - reviewed information reported on this change and the definitions of spam. The page contents are very much unique across the site, data, images, layouts.


Inconsistency within Search Console
We’ve seen mixed results when using the URL Inspection tool. Different results appear for different people and times.

Example of same day results, different people.
(Had to upload images due to limit of 3 per post)


Some of the many URLs that have been hit:
Thoughts?
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You  posted in the Google Search Help Community, but it sounds like your question is about your website.
 
For more specialized assistance with website issues, I'm moving this thread to the Google Search Central (previously Webmasters) Help Community.
 
You may also find helpful information in the Search Console Help Center.
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@bluequoll - Thanks for moving to the correct area.

John Mueller has mentioned there's been more automation around learning what a soft 404 page is. Also appears to be others running into the same issue.


We're still getting more URLs hit and removed from the search along with the validation process still running.



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This is interesting but also comical if true...

We have a dropdown within our header which allows users to search for particular make or models. When searching and no values exist we display either "Sorry, there are no cars that match your search" or "Sorry, there are no models that match your search".



These messages are stored in regular markup and CSS is used to hide / display them when appropriate.


It would appear that something may have changed recently with the detection and this hidden text appears to have triggered a global soft 404 event. We've had this text in place for years and no change in how it's been implemented.

How does it appear without CSS? A negative trigger?


The fix?
We've removed the text globally and re-run URL Inspections with every single one now succeeding.

To hopefully bypass these negative triggers we'll look to inject the message once a user interacts instead of always being in the DOM.

This one's a doozy! Will report back in coming days in hopes our coverage report recovers.
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So far so good. Looks like this hidden text was the issue. Clearly something has changed on Google's end though as it's been in place for many years and not changed even in the slightest.

Annoying that a message that has a display:none on it could create such an issue.

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We have seen this in the drinks/ recipe  space it was covered on this mornings  webmaster call - desktop and mobile have separate algos for soft  404  and all our recipe pages look like they are soft 404 for desktop

Basically the entire drinks industry recipe pages tanked as the July Core update rolled out
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@Maurice Walshe - This seems to have been a little different. We saw the uptick at the start of June and would seem to be related to negative text on page, although hidden the AI has picked it up and ignored the "display:none;".

Do you have any example links I can take a look at?

Our recovery continues. Slow but in the right direction.

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Thank you for posting this, I am pretty sure this is our problem too.  Will reply back once we fix it.
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This is something we had an issue with as well. There's no way on a results page with 40 results on it that a hidden element with the word "no results" on it should trigger as a 404. We have a workaround in place, but this is ridiculous.
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In order to solve the problems, we have deleted in the code of the page <li class = "not-found" style = "display: none;">  <span> nothing found </span> </li>
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A similar example image I search for the name Foil Seo but my website does not appear below
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please help this my blogs do not appear google search please help
https://foilseo.blogspot.com example this picture below 
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foilseo2323@gmail.com give to me report this email thanks you
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