Google has come up with a new document explaining the impact of HTTP status codes on Search engine optimization (SEO). Before digging into the analysis of the impact, let us have a look at the meaning of “HTTP status codes”.
What is HTTP?
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol that allows the exchange of all kinds of data on the Web. Clients or the browser puts in the request for a specific search which is then responded in the form of the data required. Messages sent by the clients and the server are termed as “requests” and “responses” respectively. Therefore, it is a communication process between the client and the server.
What are HTTP Status Codes?
When a client, browser, or search engine requests a server, three-digit responses are sent back, known as “HTTP status codes. The purpose of these codes is to tell if the request made by the client or server has been successfully completed or not. Status codes are classified into five different categories where each of which holds a different meaning.
- Status codes from 100 to 199 indicate informational responses.
- Status codes from 200 to 299 indicate successful responses.
- Status codes from 300 to 399 indicate the page is to be redirected.
- Status codes from 400 to 499 indicate client errors.
- Status codes from 500 to 599 indicate server errors.
When the client puts in the request about a particular page or information, the server fetches dozens of relevant information to provide the client exact information he or she needed. It takes less than a second for HTTP status codes to come with the required information.
How HTTP Status Codes Impact SEO?
The main aim of search engine optimization is to drive organic traffic towards a website that is more likely to become the potential customer. Therefore, to achieve this, you have to be assured that the content you are uploading on your website can be easily accessed by search engine crawlers.
Following are the common HTTP status codes found in SEO; let us know the meaning of them in detail –
- 200 OK
- 301 Moved permanently
- 302 Found or moved temporarily
- 307 Temporarily redirected or internal redirect
- 404 Not found
- 410 Gone
- 503 Service unavailable
HTTP Status Code 2xx (Success)
The code indicates that everything is normal and the request has been successfully responded to. In simple words, it means that there were no errors found. However, this does not mean that you do not have to pay attention. In few cases, pages that must be found in error stats codes or non-existent are usually found on the 2xx status code. This scenario is believed to be non-optimal from the SEO’s perspective. You can identify such pages on OnCrawl in the following criteria –
- Present in a separate group of your segmentation that has uncategorized pages.
- The Word count will below.
- With canonical tags that do not match.
- The similarity rate will be high.
- Use of description tags and with the non-optimized title.
- With duplicate H1, description tags, or title.
- Pages with missing H1.
Thus, ensure that the pages you require responds in 2xx and the pages that respond in 2xx are genuine pages that can easily control internal linking and crawl budget.
HTTP Status Code 3xx (Redirects)
Under HTTP status code 3xx, the following status codes are most commonly found in SEO:
301 (Moved permanently): this code means that the page which the client requested is permanently moved and redirected to some other URL. Outcomes on SEO will be that the original page will be eventually de-indexed whereas; the destination page will be indexed. However, it is not certain that the original page will be recovered. Therefore, ensure that the destination page responds in status code 2xx along with directing correct links to pages in status code 301.
- 302 (Found): this code means that the page requested by the client is temporarily redirected to some other URL. Similar to the redirection of status code 301, 302 temporarily redirects but allows the traffic with a smooth user experience. However, it does not serve any SEO benefits same as permanent 301 redirects. Best practices for 302 are to use it for short-term needs such as for maintenance purposes, do not to use the 302 status code or the content that is deleted forever.
- 304 (Not modified): this refers to the requested page that since the last consultation, has not been modified. HTTP status code 304 is not recognized much often, thus it helps in saving the crawl budget. The SEO benefit is that Google does not crawl the page again which saves the resources and crawl budget. The time taken by the page to load is also enhanced.
HTTP Status Code 4xx (Client errors)
Under HTTP status code 4xx, the following status codes are most commonly found:
- 404 (File not found): when the client requests a page on the server and the response comes ‘NIL’ i.e. the server fails to find any page, is known as HTTP status code 404. The code indicates that the page is non-existent. Reasons can be that either the client has typed an incorrect URL or the access to the page is revoked temporarily. The status code 404 might be seen as an error but it is quite beneficial for SEO by preventing Google from recognizing incorrect URLs pretending to be the real page of your website.
- 410 (Gone): this means that the page requested by the client is no longer available. The key difference between the status code 404 and 410 is that 410 sends the Google information more precisely about the page that was in existence earlier but has been removed and will not be recovered.
HTTP Status Code 5xx (Server errors)
The status code means that the page requested by the client is correct, however, the server cannot complete the request for some reasons such as the website might be down for maintenance or there must be too much traffic at the time.
Therefore, HTTP status codes are beneficial for SEO as they play a significant role in transferring messages between the client and the server. This helps SEO in spotting the issues immediately and resolving them at the earliest. Hence, HTTP status codes have a positive impact on SEO as they help them to work more efficiently and effectively.