Michelle Race, aka ShelliWeb, asked an interesting SEO question, she asked what is better for Google when you have empty webpages. Should you noindex the empty webpage or should you let Google index it and treat it as a soft 404?
The specific case is that you create a category page but you have no product on that page yet. What do you do in the meantime, while you wait for products to come into that category. Do you noindex it from Google or let Google index the empty page and treat it as a soft 404?
Here is Michelle’s question:
Are there differences between return crawl rate for noindex/soft 404 pages and how quickly they could be made indexable again?
— Michelle (@Shelliweb) April 13, 2021
Now, John Mueller of Google said it doesn’t really matter. John said “I don’t think there would be any noticeable difference between those two approaches. When things change (empty -> content), we usually get signals from various places (suddenly internal links), so we can use that to pick up crawling when needed.”
Here is John’s response:
I’ve been thinking of this a bit — I don’t think there would be any noticable difference between those two approaches. When things change (empty -> content), we usually get signals from various places (suddenly internal links), so we can use that to pick up crawling when needed.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) April 14, 2021
Now of course it might be best to have a feature to not show the page at all yet without any content on it. Do not add it to your navigation, do not present it to users or search engines until the page has content. But there must be a business or technical reason for having to show it without content first, in this specific case. Either way, John’s response is interesting and new.
Here is Bing’s response on this:
Agree with @JohnMu kind of the same in general. NOINDEX is a stronger signal guarantying that search engines will stop indexing the content; “product discontinued/out of stock” may sometimes not be classified as soft-404. So if you have similar products available/sold use NOINDEX
— Fabrice Canel (@facan) April 15, 2021
Forum discussion at Twitter.