An HTTP status code is a message a website server sends to the web browser. These messages will only be visible to you and the users sometimes. However, the HTTP status code might appear on the screen based on the problem with a particular URL or website. One should understand HTTP status codes to identify and fix errors in the website and server.
If you are not seeing an HTTP status code doesn’t mean there is not an issue. You and your users might not see it, but Google does.
Understanding HTTP Status Codes
One must learn how a browser gets a webpage to understand these codes. When someone wants to visit a website, they enter its URL or use a search term. To get the related web page, the browser sends a request to the site’s IP address. The server then replies with a status code in the HTTP header, informing the browser of the request’s result.
HTTP status codes are essential to evaluate your website’s and server’s health. If a website sends improper HTTP header codes regularly to a search engine that is indexing the content, it can also lead to issues and impact the rankings.
The Five HTTP Status Code Classes
The HTTP status codes that have similar responses and meanings are arranged together so you can determine the reason.
1xx (Informational): This means that the request is received and is under process.
2xx (Successful): This means that the request was received successfully, understood, and accepted.
3xx (Redirection): This is to inform you that to complete the request further action is required. The request was redirected to another location.
4xx (Client Error): This notifies that request has bad syntax or cannot be fulfilled. 4xx error returns when the request page cannot be found or reached.
5xx (Server Error): This is when the server fails to fulfill a valid request. This indicates a server issue that led to request failure.
HTTP Status Codes and SEO
Search engines can see HTTP status codes while crawling and determining your website’s indexing. Based on the type of HTTP status code, particularly 4xx and 5xx, chances are your website is not indexed. This affects your SEO and your ranking in SERPs. Search engines prefer and prioritize high-quality websites in results. When your site gives multiple 4xx and 5xx HTTP status codes, this gives the impression that your website is of poor quality which leads to a lower ranking.
You should quickly resolve any HTTP status codes that affect user experience. Effective page and user experience require efficient technical SEO and ensuring the correct functioning of your website. SEO aims to drive organic traffic to your site. To do that, you have to ascertain that search engine crawlers can access your content. When your content is requested, you want HTTP status 200 Oaks to be returned instead of HTTP status codes 5xx and 4xx. 3xx should be the minimum as well.
Important HTTP Status Codes for SEO
The list of codes is lengthy, however, we will do a quick rundown of the ones that are particularly important for SEO and those working on their site:
200: OK / Success
All messages in 2xx indicate a win. A client asks for content from a server and the server responds with a 200 success message and the required content. Both the server, client, and visitor are happy.
301: Moved Permanently
301 HTTP header is for when the requested URL has moved permanently to a new location. When you are working on your website, this would be used frequently to redirect an old URL to a new one. Failure to do so would lead to a 404 error page that users will come across if they try to open an old URL. Using 301 ensures that the link value transfers from the old to the new URL.
302 means that the target destination is found and it lives under a different location. It is a vague status code as it fails to inform if it’s a temporary or permanent situation. A 302 redirect should be used only when you want to redirect a URL temporarily and know you will use it again. Since you inform the search engines that you will be re-using the URL, no link value is transferred.
Avoid using a 302 when making big site changes or moving domains.
307: Temporary Redirect
In HTTP1.1, the 307 code replaces the 302. You can use 307 redirects for the temporary redirect of a URL to a new one. But keeping the original request method intact. A 307 is very similar to 302, but it tells particularly that the URL has a new location temporarily.
This code informs the browser that the requested content is forbidden. The content will only be allowed if they have the correct credentials.
404: Not Found
This is the most visible and crucial status code. When the server returns with a 404 error, it means that the content that could not be found is probably deleted. These messages are a nuisance and should be fixed at the earliest. You can redirect visitors from an old URL to a new page with relevant content. Monitor these 404 messages and try to keep the minimum. Google perceives multiple 404 errors as bad maintenance that affects your overall rankings.
The result from a 410 status code is the same as 404 because the content could not be found. But 401 is more specific than a 404 because with a 410 you tell the search engines that you have deleted the requested content. Before deleting something permanently from your website:
- See if there is an equivalent page.
- If yes, make a redirect.
- If not, improve the content instead of deleting it.
451: Unavailable for Legal Reasons
This is a new addition. This code indicates the requested content was deleted due to legal reasons. If a judge orders you to take down specific content or you received a takedown request, this code is used to inform the search engine what happened.
500: Internal Server Error
This is a generic error message that indicates that the server faced an unexpected condition so the request could not be fulfilled without mentioning the specific reason. These errors can come from anywhere, and they could be due to a script malfunctioning on the site or your web host doing something strange.
503: Service Unavailable
A 503 error message means the server cannot handle the request due to an overload or an outage. This status code is suitable when you require a temporary break say your site is under maintenance. 503 helps search engines know they can return later to find your place in order and functioning again.
There, now you know everything about HTTP status codes and learn all about them so you fix issues and deliver a satisfactory user experience.