Google fixing two search bugs; review snippets and soft 404 detection

Jul 23, 2021

Google has confirmed it is fixing two search related bugs that impact what is shown and displayed in the Google search results. The issues are with review stars showing in the search results and how Google processes soft 404 documents. The two issues seem to be unrelated but are both being addressed and fixed by Google.

Soft 404 bug leading to de-indexing issues

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Google changed how it detects soft 404 pages and that led to some pages being removed from the Google Search index. In short, Google said it now does soft 404 detection by device type, which caused some to see spikes in soft 404 errors but not clearly seeing if those pages were in the Google index or not.

Google has confirmed this morning both on Twitter and on YouTube that the company has pushed out a change to address the issue over the next few days. Google wrote “you may have noticed an increase in soft 404 error reports in Search Console the past few weeks.” “The team identified the classifier that was causing the issue and deactivated it while they fine-tune it,” the company added. That was written by Gary Illyes of Google.

John Mueller of Google said earlier this morning “we saw a bunch of these reports recently, in the past couple of weeks, and the team has been looking into that, and I think they turned one of classifiers off now based on some of the feedback that we got.” “So I would suspect that maybe this will catch up again and work out in the next couple of days and week or so.” John Mueller added.

So you should see improvements on this front in the upcoming days.

Review snippets and stars go missing

Over the past couple of days, Google Search has stopped showing, for the most part, review snippets. Those stars that are placed under some of the search results that have review structured data. Danny Sullivan of Google confirmed this afternoon that this is indeed a bug and Google will hopefully fix it soon.

I asked Danny Sullivan about this on Twitter and he responded “yes, it looks like there is a bug. We’re looking at it further and hope to correct soon.”

Here are screenshots that illustrate the before and after that I personally captured.

Review snippets from two days ago:

Review snippets from this morning:

As you can see, the stars are not showing up but Google is now aware and the issue should be resolved soon.

Why we care. All of these bugs can directly impact your traffic from Google Search. When Google resolves the bugs, it may lead to more traffic to your site from Google Search. In the first case, of the soft 404 bug, Google was not listing some pages in its search results that it will soon re-list after the bug is resolved. The second case, of the review stars, Google was/is not showing review stars in the search results that can lead to a lower click through rate from the search results.

Hopefully both will be fully resolved soon and you will see a positive impact in your traffic.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

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