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    Is it worth redirecting every soft 404 that shows up in WMT after changing CMS?


    Hey all,

    Just joined up and thought I'd pose a question that would actually help me and I presume others as well.

    Here's the brief:

    • Webmaster Tools is showing me 2,500 soft 404s.


    What's the plan? What would you do next?

    What I've done is downloaded all of those URLs and placed them into a .txt file. I've then uploaded them to Majestic SEOs Bulk Backlink Checker.

    That tool has found around 97 URLs that have external backlinks of varying quality from that original list of 2,500 URLs. A lot of these URLs are simply due to the way the old CMS functions and it seems that the old CMS spat out a lot of these unique URLs with added numbers on the end of them. We've moved away from this sort of CMS to a more modern one that doesn't do this. I've mapped a redirect spreadsheet for those 97 URLs, so that we can retain the link equity that these URLs possess.

    However there are still 2,403 URLs showing up in WMT as soft 404s, which Majestic SEO's Bulk Backlink Checker didn't discover any external links for.

    Is it worth pursuing the rest of those URLs? Moreover, is there any benefit in redirecting these URLs to the most appropriate pages if they don't actually have any external links pointing to them?

    Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.
    Last edited by Jonathan J; Jan 25th, 2014 at 10:02 AM.
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    Moved to Search Engine Optimization Forum - I hope we'll have more opinions here! Here's mine:

    * Redirecting all 404 pages is bad for SEO and usability. Redirect should be done when the page was actually "moved", i.e. when the new page is very relevant and re-directed users will find it useful
    * I'd rather return a proper 404 response to Google for them to understand they need to drop the page from the index
    * Identifying pages with backlinks is a good thinking. If there are closely related pages on your site, I'd re-direct those few with natural backlinks to them
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    Originally Posted by Ann Smarty
    Moved to Search Engine Optimization Forum - I hope we'll have more opinions here! Here's mine:

    * Redirecting all 404 pages is bad for SEO and usability. Redirect should be done when the page was actually "moved", i.e. when the new page is very relevant and re-directed users will find it useful
    * I'd rather return a proper 404 response to Google for them to understand they need to drop the page from the index
    * Identifying pages with backlinks is a good thinking. If there are closely related pages on your site, I'd re-direct those few with natural backlinks to them
    Hi Ann,

    Thanks for fixing the issue with me not being able to respond.

    That's the thing, all the pages are still intact, it's just that the old CMS had an issue when dealing with session ids and therefore created multiple URLs for the same page.

    But I agree, this should have been sorted beforehand.

    Also, many of these URLs are being redirected to 404s, but are still showing up as soft 404s. Why is this?

    I've found around 300 URLs with backlinks, and I've created a redirect map for that. (Boy did that take a long time!)

    Thanks again!
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    This is where canonical tags are great IMO, because if you'd have had canonical tags setup telling bots that /page?id=423 is a canonical of /page you wouldn't have to worry about it so much.

    But now that your site has all of a sudden sprung up 2.5k 404 pages it doesn't look so good!

    Generally I would agree with what Ann said above, but with so many 404's popping up at once, I might consider trying to work out a smart redirect for them so they all point to the correct pages. This is under the presumption that all the 2.5k urls are duplicate pages with ids on the end?

    For example. if you haven't changed page urls, you could write some htaccess code to redirect all pages with ?id=xyz to the rest of the url before that id part. Would that be relevant to your situation? Maybe you could post a good amount of the problem urls so people can see exactly what your needing to fix?
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    Originally Posted by NathanielB
    This is where canonical tags are great IMO, because if you'd have had canonical tags setup telling bots that /page?id=423 is a canonical of /page you wouldn't have to worry about it so much.

    But now that your site has all of a sudden sprung up 2.5k 404 pages it doesn't look so good!

    Generally I would agree with what Ann said above, but with so many 404's popping up at once, I might consider trying to work out a smart redirect for them so they all point to the correct pages. This is under the presumption that all the 2.5k urls are duplicate pages with ids on the end?

    For example. if you haven't changed page urls, you could write some htaccess code to redirect all pages with ?id=xyz to the rest of the url before that id part. Would that be relevant to your situation? Maybe you could post a good amount of the problem urls so people can see exactly what your needing to fix?
    Hey Nathaniel,

    For this very reason we had canonical tags setup, but they are no longer required as the new CMS (Drupal) doesn't generate hundreds of new URLs for essentially the same page.

    Unfortunately it's a little more complicated than IDs at the end of the URL, but you're quite close with that.

    This is what these URLs look like:
    cgi-bin/generic_editorial.jsp?BV_SessionID=@@@@2002844366. 1174339221@@@@&BV_EngineID=ccchaddkhfkgfflcfngcfkm dfkidffk.0&navRoot=root&portal=null&edname=AV_styl e_and_substance&id=AV4_style_and_substance&catname =%%2Fmain_nav%2FpageTopNav&zone=zone&menuid=62244& sr=Mall
    For example, this specific URL has quite a few backlinks pointing to it. I guess it would be most logical to redirect this to the new URL structure and to the most appropriate page.

    Either way, it's a pain the *** and it's going to require a lot of manual overview, as there is a live copy of the old site with its old URL structure. There are however quite a few URLs that contain product names within them and we could setup smart URLs for those. I've actually already started work on segmenting these types of URLs, and should hopefully be able to fix these "soft 404s" by redirecting these URLs by product type to the most appropriate page.

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