Google May Treat Some 404s As 301s & Canonicalize To A New URL

Dec 19, 2019 - 7:59 am 4 by

Mother Knows Best

Google's John Mueller was asked by Mihai Aperghis in a webmaster hangout at the 58 minute mark about a page Mihai 404ed but Google is showing as a 301 to a new URL, like Google canonicalized the 404 URL to the new URL.

Mihai asked "Google doesn't see the old URL as a 404 and the new URL is a brand new URL. It just sees the old URL as a canonical to the new URL and I don't know how to make it kind of see that that one is a 404. Using a test live URL it does show a 404 but doing the normal URL inspection it just show the Google site the canonical is now the new URL instead of 404."

John said it is possible that Google is trying to do that on purpose. John said "I could imagine our systems are doing that on purpose to help people who aren't doing redirects properly. So maybe that's a case where we're being more helpful for you than you want us to be. Because if we can tell that the content is the same and like it disappeared one URL and it reappeared somewhere else and I could imagine our system saying well this is your you're kind of shifting the canonical from one to the other."

He didn't have a good solution to override Google being too smart outside of trying to change the content on the new URL page drastically. That won't really work for Mihai in this case. Mihai just wants Google to respect his server status code.

Hat tip to Glenn Gabe:


Here is the video embed:

Forum discussion at Twitter.


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