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How HTTP Status Codes Affect SEO

How HTTP Status Codes Affect SEO

Google has released a new help document that explains how different HTTP status codes affect how a site appears in search results.

ONE latest tweet suggests that Google’s Gary Illyes had a hand in compiling this document.

This is the new guide for reference when you are unsure how a particular status code affects SEO.

Let’s take a look at what’s included in Google’s new guide for website owners and developers.

Much of this may already be known to you, but it might not hurt to update your status code knowledge with the latest information available.

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How HTTP Status Codes Affect Google Search

Google’s new document covers the 20 biggest status codes that Googlebot encounters on the web, and the most prominent network and DNS errors.

HTTP status codes are generated by the server hosting a website when a browser or crawler requests content.

For example, if a browser requests content that is no longer hosted on the server, a 404 (not found) status code is generated.

The first number in the status code indicates which category it belongs to. All 2xx codes refer to successful crawling, all 3xx codes refer to redirects, and so on.

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Instead of reviewing all 20 status codes, I have collected the key snippets for each category.

HTTP 2xx (success)

These codes mean that Googlebot can crawl the content and pass it on to the indexing pipeline.

Google points out that an HTTP 2xx status code does not guarantee indexing, it simply means that there were no errors.

The exception is a 204 status code, which means that the page was accessed but no content was found.

Google may display a soft 404 in the Search Console for pages serving a 204 code.

HTTP 3xx (redirects)

Not all redirects are the same.

An HTTP 301 status code sends a stronger signal than a 302, 303, or 307 code whose URL is to be considered canonical.

A 304 status code signals to Google that the content is the same as the last time it was crawled. It has no effect on indexing, but may cause the signals to the URL to be recalculated.

What happens if redirection does not work?

Googlebot follows up to 10 redirects before stopping trying.

If the content is not received within 10 hops, the Search Console will show a redirect error in the site’s index coverage report.

HTTP 4xx (client error)

Pages that return a 4xx status code are not considered for indexing in Google search results.

All 4xx errors except 429 are treated the same. They signal to Googlebot that the content does not exist. If the content previously existed, the URL will be removed from Google’s search index.

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A 429 status code means that Googlebot could not access a URL because the server is overloaded. These URLs are maintained in Google’s index.

HTTP 5xx (server error)

5xx server error prompts Googlebot to temporarily slow down crawling.

Previously indexed URLs that now have a server error will eventually be deleted if they continue to serve a 5xx status code.

For more details about these server errors and information about DNS and server errors, see the full Google Help document.

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