HTTP Status Codes
HyperText Transfer Protocol (or HTTP) response status codes are returned each time a request is sent to a web server. These codes are three-digit numeric status codes and are usually accompanied by a text message, their purpose is to demonstrate the response and status of a web element.
Each web element requested will deliver a status code, this code gives the browser all the extra information and instructions that is needed to display the element. It should be noted that there are numerous HTTP codes, and the majority are not that relevant to SEO but it advisable that those that will have an impact be identified. The problem lies in that the search bots when spidering your website they will also see these status codes and if they are not correctly used they can have a negative impact on website rankings and indexing, so it is important to get these codes correct.
HTTP Status Code Definitions
These three digit HTTP codes will always start with a number between 1 to 5, which, indicates the class of code, usually client or server error, and the remainder of the digits represent the particular status. They will run from the 100's to the 500's, each status code can be classified into a specific description of category, as follows:
- 1xx – These are informational. They indicate that the request has been received and is being processed
- 2xx – Are read as success codes. They indicate that the request has been received, understood and has been correctly processed.
- 3xx – These codes are read as a redirection. They indicate that the request has been received however, it still is necessary to execute a further step to carry out the request. A number of these status codes are used in URL redirection.
- 4xx - These are client error codes. They indicate that a request was made by the user however, the server was unable to finish the actual request or the request had bad syntax. It should further specify a description of the error situation and state if it is a temporary or permanent condition.
- 5xx - These are server error codes. They indicate a valid request was made by the user however, the server was unsuccessful in fulfilling the actual request. Again it should have a error description and advise if it is a temporary or permanent condition.
The most common HTTP status codes are detailed below:
- Code 200: (Successful)
It declares that the server was successful in dealing with the request. It can be read that the server supplied the requested page. This is the status code that all webmasters should strive to deliver.
- Code 301: (Moved Permanently)
Advises that the web element that was requested has been permanently moved to a different location. When the server gives this message, it will immediately take the requestor to the new location. This code should be used to inform search engines that the requested element or site has permanently moved to a different location.
- Code 302: (Moved Temporarily)
Informs the requestor that the selected element is being retrieved from a different location however, that future requests should be carried out using the original location. This code is similar to the 301 as it will take the requestor immediately to the different location. It should be noted that it is not necessary to inform the search engines of the move as it will carry on crawling and index the original location.
- Code 404: (Not Found)
The server was unsuccessful at locating the specific element. Generally, the server will return this code if the request is made for an element that is no longer available on the server.
- Code 410: (Gone)
This is the reply received when the selected resource has been taken down for good and there is no forwarding address. It is like a 404 (not found) code and in some instances is used to substitute a 404 that was previously there but, no longer remains. If the resource has moved for good then you should use a 301 to state the resource's new location.
- Code 500: (Internal Server Error)
The server came across a problem and is unable to deliver the requested resource.
- Code 503: (Service unavailable)
The server is not available at this time. This could be as a result of an overload or the server being down for maintenance. In most instances, this is a momentary condition.
HTTP Status Codes and SEO
In SEO terms a 301 is often referred to as a Permanent Redirect and 302 as a Temporary Redirect. A 301 redirect is the best course of action if redirecting a website or web pages. The reason being a 301 redirect informs search engine crawlers that the resource has been moved permanetly. The benefit of a 301 redirect is that the link equity gets passed to the new page. However, a 302 redirect does not pass along link equity. A 404 should only be used if pertinent. The best course of action is that visitors should be shown navigational options so as to avoid them leaving the website. Webmasters should strive to keep visitors on their website.
404 (Not Found) Page Recommendations
Web optimized 404 error pages should consist of:
- An alert that the user has come to a page that no longer or never existed.
- A search box that allows visitors to carry out a search for what they require.
- A simplified navigation system or instructions that will allow visitors to easily locate the information they require.
- A link to the home page, and or the most popular articles and posts.
- Provide a contact form or email address for support in case any extra assistance is required.
- Maintain usual site navigation throughout the 404 page.
HTTP Status Code Summary
Always ensure a 301 redirect is used when a web page or website is moved to a new location. this will ensure link equity is passed to the new location.
Ensure a proper 404 page is configured so visitors can still find the resource being requested if it no longer exists.
A website audit should be performed to ensure that the correct HTTP status codes are being returned and all links are pointing to the correct locations. During web development links can often be misspelled causing a broken link and a 404 code to be returned. Seopler returns the HTTP status code for every page crawled. Sign up to one of our free or paid plans and test your HTTP status codes now.