Sometimes not everything goes well with a website. Despite a solid setup, you’ll often find that your pages will have technical issues for a variety of reasons. These problems can crop up at a moment’s notice and affect the functioning of your site.
These errors come in a number of different codes, which we’ll discuss below. Briefly, the codes you mainly need to be aware of are the 301, 500, and 404 error messages, although there are many more.
These errors can have profound impacts on your SEO and page ranking if not kept in check. As you might imagine, your latest tailored page or product listing could go down with no warning. This can leave you vulnerable to a loss in your hard-earned page ranking.
The good news is that there is a lot of work you can do to avoid this issue. Precautions can be taken to avoid a loss of ranking in the instance that a page goes down. With a few of these tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be good to go when technical issues arise. Page ranking can be conserved by the clever use of these techniques to make sure you never lose out.
The Status Code Types
Status codes are separated into hundreds. This is for ease of understanding and helps make it a little simpler to keep in your head along with the other hundred SEO things you need to know! You don’t need to have exhaustive knowledge of each as there are a few main codes that are important in most cases. It’s good to know the full range in a general sense however as this is a subject that will help you get the most out of your other SEO work.
A 100 code is for informative purposes. With these, it means whatever request was made was received and is ongoing.
A 200 code means that all is well and completed.
A 300 code means that the page request has come in but needs one further action to fully complete the request.
A 400 code means that the page, for whatever reason, isn’t valid and your request can’t go through.
A 500 code is the nasty server error type. This means a viewing request was made by a user but your server – not the user’s – has a problem and can’t complete the request.
Let’s take a further look and see what some specific errors are.
As we mentioned above the 200 code is for the full completion and means there is no issue present.
301 Permanent Move
This means that the page that the user has asked to see has changed its actual location URL. This is a useful code and needs to be used every time you need to do a URL redirect.
This means that the user will see the original URL for any future views but that your server is actually providing them with a different page with a different URL. This is a bad result and needs to be avoided because it doesn’t inform the search engine bots that crawl websites that a move of a page to a new URL has been completed. This means that any 302’s will make a search bot not recognize the new page properly, causing you to lose your page rankings.
404 File Not Found
One of the more commonly known errors and the subject of many jokes in internet culture. The 404 error message means that there is no page content at all that matches the given URL. This code often appears if the user has entered a typo in the URL. Sometimes a 404 will show but actually be a 200 code. This has the consequence of your site page being indexed by search bots incorrectly – the bot thinks the page has loaded successfully and treats it normally.
The 410 code means that the page or resource isn’t available and also that no URL for the request to be forwarded to has been provided. These are to be avoided and the best practice is to change these to a 404 Not Found.
503 Service Unavailable
A 503 code means that your server can’t process the request made at the time. This is usually an indication that your server is under heavy load. It can also be due to maintenance on your server.
You need to make sure that a 503 is available whenever you are performing planned maintenance on your website. This ensures that search bots understand that a revisit needs to be made because the downtime on the requested page is only temporary. That will help you preserve the ranking for your pages and site.
How to Make the Best Use of These Codes
Now we’ve gone over the different codes and what they mean, the question remains on how to cohesively use them.
A 301 is best used to redirect a view request for a page. It’s better to use this code, as a 302 won’t inform search bots that the page has changed for good. This means you might lose out on the SERP ranking.
It’s also a good idea to use a 404 error message when it’s suitable to do so. While the temptation for site owners is to just use 301s all the time if you have smaller or less used pages or links you can put in a tailored 404 that has further information on it to best guide users. This can help avoid incorrect pages being indexed by bots.
A good custom 404 error message should have instructions on how to correctly navigate your site. This can include details such as a search box for the site as well as a URL for the site’s homepage. You’ll want to make sure it’s easily read and simple to understand to make sure you maximize the successful redirects of people who land on them.
This is a subject that will help you maximize the SEO of your website. It’s an area of work that is proactive – you want to make sure that your other techniques and processes for your campaign are in order then see to the proper use of these codes. This will ensure that your hard-earned success and SERP ranking work are not diminished due to avoidable codes.
Particularly with a custom 404 error message or page, a little work and time invested in making sure this is as informative as possible will pay dividends over time as you retain more users that are successfully redirected to the content they’re seeking.