Shepherd - 5:27 pm on Jun 17, 2013 (gmt 0)
Well, it's not really. It's making up URLs using known queries and putting them together in new ways to see what comes up.
Sorry Lucy24, I probably wasn't clear, they are finding "real" pages, not made up strings for URLs. Seen that before, not the same thing here.
Here's the best example I can come up with without using specifics:
We sell "examples" at example.com. We have pages for "examples" in every state: example.com/alabama, example.com/alaska... ect. We write articles about "examples" for most states and list them here: example.com/alabama/articles. So lets say we have'nt written any articles for "examples" in Alaska yet. The page is still there: exampl.com/alaska/articles but instead of listing the available articles (there are none) it says "no articles for Alaska yet". google is telling us in WMT that example.com/alaska/articles is a "soft 404". And they're right, these are pages that are not adding value, that should not be there.
I don't usually give google much credit but they are nailing this! For whatever it's worth, I'm impressed that they have been able to figure it out.