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How HTTP Status Codes Affect SEO

Google has posted a new blog explaining how various HTTP status codes can affect how a website ranks on its search engine. If you are not sure how a certain status code affects your SEO ranking, you can use this guide for reference. We’ll break down how each HTTP status code affects your ranking, according to Google itself. 

HTTP Status Codes

HTTP status codes are generated by the server hosting a website when content is requested by a browser or crawler. For instance, if a browser requests content that does not exist on the server, then it will generate a 404 not found status code (or error.) The first number of the HTTP status code indicates its category. For example, all 2xx codes refer to successful crawling, all 3xx codes refer to redirects, etc. You can see HTTP status codes in the Google Search Console’s Index Coverage report.

how HTTP status codes affect SEO

How HTTP Status Code Affect Google Search 

Google’s new post details how the top 20 HTTP status codes that Googlebot sees when crawling the web, and the most frequent network and DNS errors. Instead of detailing all 20 status codes, we will list the main takeaways for each category. 

HTTP 2xx (Success)

These HTTP status codes mean that Googlebot can crawl the content and pass it on to the indexing pipeline. Google notes that an HTTP 2xx status code does not guarantee indexing. Rather, it just means that no errors were found. The exception to that is a 204 status code, which indicates that the page was indexed successfully, but no content was found. You might see a soft 404 in the Google Search Console for pages serving a 204 code. 

HTTP 3xx (Redirects)

As you likely know already, not all website redirects are the same. For example, an HTTP 301 status code sends a stronger signal than a 302, 303, or 307 code in terms of which URL should be considered canonical. A 304 status code tells Google that the content is the same as the last time it was crawled. It doesn’t affect indexing, but it might recalculate the signals for the URL. If you’re wondering, “what happens if the redirect doesn’t work?” Googlebot follows up to ten redirect hops before it gives up. If the content isn’t received within 10 hops, you will see a redirect error in the Google Search Console’s Index Coverage report.

HTTP 4xx (Client Errors)

Any web pages that return a 4xx status code are not considered for indexing in Google’s search results. All 4xx errors are treated the same, except 429. 4xx errors tell Googlebot that the content does not exist. If the content existed previously, the URL will be removed from Google’s search index. The exception, a 429 status code, means Googlebot couldn’t access a URL because the server is overloaded. That URL will be preserved in Google’s index. 

HTTP 5xx (Server Errors)

A 5xx server error causes Googlebot to slow down with crawling temporarily. Previously indexed URLs which now have a server error will eventually be dropped from the search index if they continue to serve a 5xx status code. 

Fix Your HTTP Status Codes and SEO at SEO Design Chicago

For additional information about these server errors, either check out Google’s full help document or contact SEO Design Chicago today! We can help fix any SEO issues on your website. 

FAQs: 

  • What are HTTP status codes? 
  • What does an HTTP 2xx status code mean?
  • Where can I find HTTP status codes? 
  • What does an HTTP 3xx status code mean? 
  • What is a 429 status code?

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