What exactly are HTTP status codes?
A server answer to a browser’s request is represented by an HTTP status code. When you visit a website, your browser makes a request to the site’s server, and the server answers with a three-digit code known as the HTTP status code.
These status codes are the way of communication between your browser and the server on the Internet. They convey if things between the two are OK, iffy, or if something is awry.
Understanding status codes and how to apply them can assist you in swiftly diagnosing site faults and minimising downtime on your site. You may even utilise some of these status codes to assist search engines and people find your site; for example, a 301 redirect will notify bots and humans that a page has been permanently relocated.
Common HTTP status code classes include:
100’s – Informational responses: The server is processing the request.
200’s – Achievement!: The request was successfully completed, and the server returned the anticipated answer to the browser.
300’s –Redirection: You have been redirected to another page. The request was received, however, there is some sort of redirection.
400’s – Client Error: Page Could Not Be Found. The site or page could not be accessed. (The request was performed, but the page is invalid — this is a mistake on the website’s end of the conversation that frequently occurs when a page does not exist on the site.)
500’s – Errors on the server: Failure The client made a legitimate request, but the server failed to finish it.
HTTP Status Codes That Are Common
Before we go any further, I’d like to remind you that there are over 40 distinct server status codes, although you’re unlikely to encounter more than a few of them in your profession. So, if you’re in charge of a website and its SEO procedures, it’s critical that you understand them so you know what to do when you run into HTTP status code problems.
Without further delay, here is a list of the most often seen HTTP status codes:
HTTP Status Code 200 – Accepted
This is the ideal status code for a typical well working website. Visitors, bots, and link equity glide effortlessly over connected pages. You don’t need to do anything, and you can go about your day certain that everything is as it should be.
301 Permanently Redirected
The HTTP 301 Moved Permanently status code indicates that the client-requested URL has been relocated to a new location. 301 redirects are followed by browsers without requiring users to take any action.
The 301 status code is commonly used when moving a website from HTTP to HTTPS, but it is also used for configuring access to the website mirror, configuring URL trailing slashes, and transferring a portion of the site or the full site to a different domain.
This redirect is highly advised if you want to transfer the SEO rating and authority of an old web page to a new one. However, just altering the URL without updating the content will have a detrimental influence on the indexation of fresh modifications.
Consider this: You send a fresh signal to search engines indicating that you want the new page to appear in search, but because the old URL has a lot of authority, Google refuses to replace it with the new page.
Pro Tip: Never redirect people to your homepage from a deleted URL. Google considers such redirects to be soft 404s, which means that the search engine ignores them and does not send PageRank or other signals from the old URL to the new one. Instead, direct them to a page that is comparable to the target page.
Avoid redirect loops as well, as they hinder users from reaching the intended page. To put it another way, avoid utilising link chains that include a link that is redirected to a URL that is already part of the same chain.
Furthermore, Google does not index beyond the fourth or even third redirect in a redirect chain. As a result, it is critical not to employ many redirects, as each new one will result in a loss of ranking weight.
Multiple redirections will cause Google to become confused about where all of the page authority should be routed. So, just take out the middleman and redirect the first page to the final one you’ve configured. Furthermore, as time passes, you may delete 301 redirects to overcome the server burden.
302 results were found
The 302 Found status code is quite similar to the 301 code, however, the 302 status code was developed for circumstances in which a website is relocated temporarily rather than permanently.
Browsers automatically follow the 302 code, which signals that the page was successfully discovered but has been temporarily relocated to a different address.
As a general rule, it should only be used for brief content maintenance activities if you plan to redirect your website users to the previous web page.
If you keep the 302 redirects in place for too long, Google will treat it as if it were a 301 redirect. Furthermore, ensure that your website does not contain any 302 redirects that should be 301, since this is a typical error.
HTTP Status Code 404 – Not Found
This signifies that the server was unable to locate the file or page that the browser was requesting. 404s do not tell if the missing page or resource is gone forever or only for a short time. By entering a URL that does not exist, you may see what this looks like on your site. It’s like running into a brick wall.
As you’ve probably seen, when your visitors arrive at a page with a 404 error, they’ll either try again (if they’re lucky) or go to another site that provides the information they’re looking for.
Some pages on every website will return 404 status codes. These pages do not necessarily need to be forwarded; there are other alternatives.
One popular fallacy is that merely 301 redirecting pages that return a 404 status code to the specified domain’s homepage is an SEO excellent practice. In most circumstances, this is a terrible idea since it might mislead consumers who may not understand the webpage they were attempting to reach does not exist.
If the sites returning 404 codes are high-authority pages with a lot of traffic or have a clear URL that visitors or links are trying to go to, you should use 301 redirects to the most relevant page feasible.
For example, if your sugar-free cupcakes page no longer exists, you may wish to redirect this URL to your sugar-free recipe category page using a 301 redirect.
Outside of these cases, it may be important for a URL to return a 404 intentionally in order to avoid being indexed and crawled frequently by search engines.
Give your visitors the best possible experience by creating a personalised 404 page, as recommended by this Google Search Console guidance.
E-commerce sites, for example, frequently generate 404 pages when things go out of stock, therefore these sites are ideal candidates for developing a bespoke eCommerce 404 page.
HTTP Status Code 410 – Gone
A 410 is more permanent than a 404; it means that the page is gone. The page is no longer available from the server and no forwarding address has been set up.
Any links you have on your site that are pointing to a 410 page are sending bots and visitors to a dead resource, so if you see them, remove any references or links to them from your content.
HTTP Status Code 500 – Internal Server Error
Instead of an issue with missing or unfound pages, this status code indicates a server problem. A 500 is a common server error that will prevent visitors from accessing your website.
Both human visitors and bots will be lost, and your link equity will go quickly. Because search engines like well-maintained sites, you should analyse these status codes and resolve issues as quickly as possible.
HTTP Status Code 503 – Service Unavailable
A 503 response, which is a variant of the 500, indicates that the server is unavailable. Everyone (human or otherwise) is requested to return at a later time. This might be due to a temporary overload on the server or server maintenance.
A 503 status code informs search engines that the page or site will be unavailable for a short period of time and that they should return soon.
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