From a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, there are numerous factors that contribute to the successful ranking of a website. One often overlooked aspect is the understanding and management of HTTP status codes. These status codes play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and functional website. Their role also includes ensuring a positive user experience and hopefully a positive impact on SEO rankings. In this article, we will delve into the significance of HTTP status codes and their profound influence on SEO.
What are HTTP Status Codes?
HTTP status codes are three-digit numbers that indicate the status of a particular web page or resource. They are part of the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the underlying protocol of the World Wide Web. These codes are generated by web servers to communicate with web browsers. Thus, providing information about the success or failure of a requested webpage or other resource.
For a full list of these status codes and their meanings, refer to this page.
The Role of HTTP Status Codes in SEO
- User Experience and Engagement: these status codes are instrumental in maintaining a positive user experience on your website. When a user encounters an error, such as the famous ‘404 Not Found’ error, it can be frustrating and diminishes their overall experience. A website that consistently delivers error-free pages fosters trust and encourages users to engage, explore, and spend more time on the site. Consequently, positive user engagement metrics, such as low bounce rates and high session durations, are key factors in SEO rankings
- Indexing and Crawlability: search engines regularly crawl websites to index their pages and determine their relevance to search queries. HTTP Status Codes, if not handled correctly, can impede search engine crawlers from accessing and indexing your website content. For example, the ‘500 Internal Server Error’ code indicates an issue on the server side such as a database error. This would prevent search engines from properly indexing the affected pages. Such codes or errors can reduce visibility in search engine results and harm your website’s SEO performance
- Page Authority and Link Equity: when other websites link to your content, it boosts your website’s authority. Furthermore, it increases your website’s credibility and usefulness in the eyes of search engines. For more details on Page and Domain Authority, refer to our article on Domain Authority and Why it is Important. However, some HTTP Status Codes can interrupt link equity flow, affecting authority distribution across your site. For instance, the ‘301 Moved Permanently’ code signifies that a page has moved to a new URL permanently. Properly implementing redirects with this code ensures that the link equity of the old page is transferred to the new one. The redirect prevents loss of authority and preserves SEO value.
Common HTTP Status Codes and Their Impact
- 404 Not Found, the most well-known web error code. A ‘404 Not Found’ occurs when a requested resource cannot be found on the server. This code can arise from broken links, deleted pages, or mistyped URLs. Failing to handle 404 errors appropriately can lead to negative user experiences and lost opportunities for engagement. Implementing custom 404 pages that offer helpful navigation and redirecting broken links to relevant content mitigates the impact on SEO
- 503 Service Unavailable, the ‘503 Service Unavailable’ code indicates that the server can temporarily not handle requests due to maintenance or high traffic. Search engines take note of this code and may revisit the affected pages later. However, frequent or extended 503 errors can result in lower crawl rates. Thus impacting the timely indexing of new content and potentially harming SEO rankings.
Understanding and managing HTTP Status Codes
HTTP Status Codes may seem like technical jargon, but their impact on SEO rankings is undeniable. By understanding and effectively managing the better-known HTTP Status Codes, website owners, web developers and SEO practitioners can enhance user experiences.
In short, HTTP status codes play a critical role in SEO by shaping user experiences, aiding search engine crawlability, preserving link equity and ultimately impacting website rankings.
Using Google Search Console and performing technical SEO audits via tools such as SEMRush, can help you uncover broken links and other problems. Embracing the significance of web status codes as part of your SEO strategy is a wise investment towards achieving online success.