How HTTP status codes impact SEO

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

A recent tweet suggests that Gary Illyes of Google participated in the development of this document.

This is the new go-to guide when you are unsure of the impact of a particular status code on SEO.

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

Much of this may be familiar to you already, but it can’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge of status codes with the most recent information available.

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How HTTP Status Codes Affect Google Search

Google’s new document covers the top 20 status codes that Googlebot encounters on the web, as well as the most important network and DNS errors.

HTTP status codes are generated by the server hosting a site when content is requested by a browser or crawler.

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

The first digit of the status code indicates to which category it belongs. All 2xx codes refer to successful crawl, all 3xx codes refer to redirects, etc.

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Rather than going through the 20 status codes, I’ve put together the top takeaways for each category.

HTTP 2xx (success)

These codes mean that Googlebot can crawl the content and push it to the index pipeline.

Google would like to point out that an HTTP 2xx status code does not guarantee indexing, it just means that no errors were encountered.

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

Google can display an app 404 in Search Console for pages containing a code 204.

HTTP 3xx (redirects)

Not all redirects are created equal.

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

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

What happens if the redirect doesn’t work?

Googlebot tracks up to 10 redirect hops before quitting trying.

If content is not received within 10 hops, Search Console will display a redirect error in the Site Index Coverage Report.

HTTP 4xx (client errors)

Pages that return a 4xx status code are not counted 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 existed before, the URL will be removed from Google’s search index.

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A 429 status code means that Googlebot was unable to access a URL because the server is overloaded. These URLs will be kept in the Google index.

HTTP 5xx (server errors)

5xx server errors cause Googlebot to temporarily slow down while crawling.

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

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





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