It is important for search engine optimization specialists (SEOs) to understand how the HTTP protocol works and its impact on the search engines’ crawling and indexing of web pages. In this article, we lay out the nuances of this essential topic in a quick and easy manner.
What are HTTP status codes?
Status code is a response received by the server to a browser’s request. When you key in a web address on the browser, the browser sends a request to that particular site’s server. The server then responds to the browser with a three-digit HTTP status code.
In layman’s terms, these HTTP response codes are the internet conversations between the browser and the respective server. Identifying the HTTP Protocol helps us determine site errors and minimize downtime and bounce rate, which in turn improves search engine ranking.
John Mueller explained that HTTP status codes are the first thing Google checks when crawling the content.
He was posed with the question:
‘Wondering if Google checks status codes before anything else, like before rendering content?’
In response, Mueller confirmed that Google does check the status codes before rendering or indexing content. Google checks for a ‘200’ status code before proceeding with crawling any further. A 200 status code indicates to Google that it is crawling a valid page and there might be content worth indexing on it. Here is the video on different errors that Google may find & report while crawling your website
List of HTTP Status Codes
Http status codes are broadly divided into four groups which are:
- 2xx HTTP response code group
- 3xx HTTP response code group
- 4xx HTTP response code group
- 5xx HTTP response code group
Here is an interesting and detailed image which would help you to understand different types of HTTP response code you may get for a webpage.
Here is a list of HTTP status codes and what each one means:
This is the ideal status code for normal, functioning pages. Visitors, bots and link equity pass through such linked pages.
301 Status Code: Permanent Redirection
This code shows that a web page has been permanently replaced with a different resource. Redirect allows you to direct traffic from one location to another. Ensure proper SEO while making the changes and routing visitors to the correct location of your site. Typically, this is the one you will want to use for SEO purposes for preventing 404 errors. Here is what Google’s John Mueller has to say on how long will it take to rank a new URL after doing a 301 redirect to the old URL:
302 Status Code: Temporary Redirection
This code indicates that the request sent by the browser for a web page was found, but the URL or content has been moved temporarily.
304 Status Code: Not Modified
This message is an HTTP response code that prompts implicit redirection to a cached version of the requested resource. This code tells the browser that the resources stored in the browser cache haven’t changed. Also, the HTTP status code 304 is used to speed up web page delivery by utilizing the downloaded resources.
401 Status Code: Unauthorized Error
This indicates that the request sent by the browser could not be authenticated. The authentication may have been provided by the client, but the client is not permitted to access the requested resource.
403 Status Code: Forbidden Error
The server understood the request however, it refuses to authorize it. This code is returned when the user attempts to access something that they do not have permission to access.
404 Status Code: Page Not Found
405 Status Code: Method Not Allowed
This response code shows that the request is recognized by the server, but it is rejecting that particular target resource. 405 error code confirms that the requested resource is valid and exists, but the client had used an unacceptable HTTP method during the request.
501 Status Code: Not Implemented
This status code is received when the web server does not recognize the request method and is incapable of supporting it.
502 Status Code: Bad Gateway
This error is a status code which means that one server on the internet received an invalid response from another server. Different webservers and operating systems represent the 502 bad gateway errors in various ways. But they all have the same meaning.
503 Status Code: Service unavailable
The server is temporarily unable to handle the request due to the server overload or it being down for maintenance.
504 Status Code: Gateway Timeout
When one server fails to receive a timely response from another server that it was accessing while loading a web page or fulfilling a request by the browser.
Now that you are familiar with the most common HTTP errors, you should have a good basis for troubleshooting issues with your web servers or applications.
If you come across any error codes that were not mentioned above, feel free to discuss them in the comments section.
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