Response Codes Optimization
The hypertext transfer protocol(HTTP) manages the interaction between browsers and websites in the World Wide Web’s client-server architecture. This protocol is an official web standard that was first introduced in 1991. Almost all web traffic is routed through HTTP. The study of HTTP status codes is an important aspect of a technical SEO audit because it allows you to take stock of the error codes within your site’s structure in only a few clicks. All you have to do now is double-check that these HTTP status codes are what you expect, make any necessary modifications, and fix your internal links.
When search engine spiders like Googlebot scan a website, they act like browsers requesting web pages from the site, and they use HTTP to do it. This is why search engine optimization specialists (SEOs) must learn how the HTTP protocol works and how it affects the crawling and indexing of web pages by search engines.
HTTP status codes
When a website’s server receives a request for a web page, it responds with an HTTP status code. This code specifies the type of answer the server is giving to the client and is an acknowledgement of the client’s request.
A web server can answer with hundreds of various HTTP status codes, which you may encounter in your day-to-day search engine optimization (SEO) work. It will assist you in becoming familiar with the majority of them so that you can work with them effectively.
These status codes must be thoroughly understood by search engine optimization specialists, as well as the purpose of each answer code. Furthermore, SEOs should be aware of how search engines like Google deal with these status codes. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common.
A 200 response from a web server indicates that the request was successful, that the requested web page exists, and that the web server will begin providing that page and its related resources (images, CSS, and JS files, for example) to the client.
This response code is extremely straightforward. Additional headers are frequently supplied along with the response code, which can have an impact on how search engines treat the URL.
301 moved permanently
The 301 HTTP status code is popular among SEOs because it informs browsers — and search engines — that a web page has been replaced by another and that the change is permanent. This is a notice to search engines that they need to update their indexes and correlate the link metrics from the old URL with the new URL.
The amount of link value from the original URL that is transferred to the new URL via a 301-redirect is unknown, and Google has made contradicting claims on the subject.
A 301 redirect is believed to have the same PageRank dampening effect as a link. As a result, redirecting from page A to page B has the same impact as redirecting from page A to page B.
Overall, 301 redirects are an important tool in the SEO toolkit, with a variety of applications that can help a website maintain or even increase its ranks.
302 moved temporarily
The 302 HTTP status code, on the other hand, indicates that a page has been temporarily replaced with another URL.
In simple words, this means that search engines will continue to index the old URL while users are sent to the redirect’s destination URL. However, in the long run, Google sees a 302 redirect as a permanent 301 redirect and will start treating it accordingly.
Many websites employ 302 redirects to automatically route readers to the appropriate country/language version of their content. While this may appear to be a good idea in theory, using redirects for this can result in search engines like Google only seeing one country’s version of the site’s content.
Because Google crawls predominantly from IP addresses in the United States, a 302 redirect for all US traffic ensures that Google only sees a site’s American content. Unless you find a way to make exceptions for Googlebot, other nation and language versions will be effectively invisible to Google.
304 not modified
The HTTP status code 304 isn’t utilised nearly as much as it should be. This code tells browsers and search engine crawlers that the resource hasn’t changed since the previous time they visited. This eliminates the need for the resource to be resent across the internet, allowing the client to rely on the cached version of the resource.
The use of 304 status codes wisely on large websites can help save a lot of server resources. When you deliver 304 resources to Googlebot when a website hasn’t been modified since the last crawl, the page isn’t produced or sent across the internet, allowing you to save a lot of CPU cycles and bandwidth.
307 temporary redirect
The HTTP status code 307 is a bit of a false alarm. It takes place occasionally on websites that are served over HTTPS and are on the HSTS preload list. The Chromium Projects state that:
HSTS instructs a browser to utilise HTTPS at all times. Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Edt, and Internet Explorer all support HSTS.
Basically, when a browser receives a 307, it realises that a request to http://website.com should be sent to https://website.com and redirects you there.
The website’s server never sees the initial request, therefore it’s not actually an HTTP response code. Because it knows (because to the HSTS Preload list) that the URL in issue is served over HTTPS rather than HTTP, the browser does the redirect itself. The preloaded HSTS list includes well-known sites such as Google, PayPal, Twitter, Stripe, Dropbox, Facebook, and LastPass.
404 not found & 410 gone
There are two HTTP status codes in the 400 range that I want to emphasize since they are significant for SEO.
The 404 not found HTTP status code is the earliest and most common. This means the URL doesn’t exist, and the Crawl Issues report in Google Search Console will show these errors. The most common cause of 404 answers is a broken link on a website that Google discovers and tries to crawl.
After a page has been removed, a website will begin providing a 404 not found HTTP response. You should not let this happen. A 404 error is caused by an unintentional error, such as a mistyped link. If a URL that used to offer valid content has been removed, you should either 301-redirect the URL to a genuine active page or serve a 410 gone status code instead of a 404.
An intentional 404 is similar to the HTTP response code of 410. You’re indicating with the 410 response that there was once a page here, but it’s been permanently erased.
410s are treated differently by search engines than 404s. While both status codes are presented as “not found” problems in Google Search Console, a 410 is a clear signal to Google that the URL should be removed from its index. A 404 response is interpreted by Google as an unintentional error, and a URL providing a 404 will be kept in its index for a while, whereas a 410 response is interpreted as an explicit request to remove that URL from Google’s index.
503 service unavailable and 500 internal server problem
Any HTTP response with a 5XX code indicates a server-side issue. They are codes to be avoided at all costs.
They’re rather frequent, especially on big websites.
The impact of these issues on SEO is mostly a matter of crawl efficiency. Because of the severity of these issues, when a website starts receiving server 5XX-type responses, Googlebot will slow down or possibly cease crawling the site until the faults are resolved.
As a result, these errors have a comparable influence on a site’s crawl rate as the 429 response. As a result, there may be delays in getting new or updated information indexed. As a general guideline, a website should serve as little as possible 5XX HTTP responses.
If you absolutely must display a 5XX error message, such as when you’re shutting down a site for maintenance, use the 503 services unavailable HTTP status code.
A 503 corresponds to a 500 in the same way as a 410 corresponds to a 404: It’s a deliberate signal, letting crawlers like Googlebot know you’ve taken the site down on purpose.
When Googlebot encounters a 503, it will slow down its crawl rate but not modify the status of your page in its index. You can continue serving 503s while working on your website without affecting your Google results.
Only after a 503 error has been there for a long time will Google begin to consider it a continuous issue and update its index accordingly.