I was digging deeper into Google Search Console today and noticed I had “soft 404” errors for several items.

What is a soft 404? It is when Google tries to access a page successfully, but it has no content.

I had to look that up. The urls it had for soft 404s for me were ogv and webm video files. I navigated to the url, and they just downloaded instead of playing.

After some investigation I found that the MIME type / Content-Type was set to binary/octet-stream. I’m serving the files from AWS S3, so I used the S3 console to edit the metadata to change the Content-Type to video/ogg or video/webm as appropriate.

Now when I go to the urls they just play in the browser instead of download, and hopefully Google will quit seeing them as soft 404s.

I think the reason Google saw them as blank content is that I had links to the alternate video formats, and since they had an inappropriate and vague content type, Google assumed it should be a web page but couldn’t render it as one. With the updated content type it should now understand that the link is to video content and not a page.