HTTP Status Codes
HyperText Transfer Protocol (or HTTP) response status codes are returned whenever search engines or website visitors make a request to a web server. These codes indicate the response and status of these request.
- Use 301 redirects rather than 302 redirects when redirecting URLs on a site to ensure that link juice (ranking power) is passed between the redirecting web pages.
- Web pages that return 404 (File Not Found) for extended periods of time and that have valuable links should be 301 redirected to other web pages.
- It is important to have customized 404 pages with recommended navigational options when website visitors request pages that return a 404 response code.
What are HTTP Status Codes?
HTTP Status codes are the 3 digit number returned by servers that indicate the status of a web element.
It is important to understand that the first digit of each three digit status code begins with one of five numbers, 1 through 5. From the 100s through the 500s, status codes fall into the following categories:
- 100s - Informational: Request has been received and the process is continuing.
- 200s - Success: Request was received and processed successfully.
- 300s - Redirection: Request has been received, but needs to perform an additional step to complete the request.
- 400s - Client Error: Request was made by the client, but the page is not valid page.
- 500s - Server Error: Valid request was made by the client, but the server failed to complete the request.
While there are many different HTTP status codes, most are not directly important to SEO. Below are the status codes that are most important to search engines:
Important HTTP Status Codes for SEOs and search engines
The request has succeeded. This is considered correct for most scenarios.
301 Moved Permanently
The requested resource has been assigned a new permanent URI and any future references to this resource should use one of the returned URIs. The 301 redirect, as it is commonly called by SEOs, should be utilized any time one URL needs to be redirected to another.
The server is currently responding to the request with a page from a different location, yet the requestor continues to use the original location for future requests. This approach is not recommended. It is not an effective way to instruct search engine bots that a page or site has moved. Using 302 will cause search engine crawlers to treat the redirect as temporary and not give it the link juice (ranking power) abilities of 301 redirects.
404 File Not Found
The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent. This should occur any time the server can't find a matching page request. Often times webmasters will display a text 404 error but the response code is a 200. This tells search engine crawlers that the page has rendered correctly and many times the webpage will get erroneously indexed.