How HTTP Standing Codes Have an effect on search engine marketing

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

A recent tweet suggests that Google’s Gary Illyes was involved in the compilation of this document.

This is the new guide to refer to if you are unsure of how a certain status code affects SEO.

Let’s see what’s in the new Google Guide for Site Owners and Developers.

You may already be familiar with much of this, but it can’t hurt to refresh your knowledge of status codes with the latest information available.

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How HTTP Status Codes Affect Google Search

The new document from Google covers the 20 most important status codes that the Googlebot finds on the web, as well as the most popular 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, it will generate a 404 (not found) status code.

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

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Instead of going through all 20 status codes, I’ve rounded up the key takeaways for each category.

HTTP 2xx (successful)

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

Google expressly points out that an HTTP 2xx status code does not guarantee indexing, but only means that no errors have occurred.

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

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

HTTP 3xx (redirects)

Not all redirects are created equal.

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

A 304 status code signals to Google that the content is identical to the last crawl. It has no effect on indexing, but it can cause the signals for the URL to be recalculated.

What if the forwarding doesn’t work?

The Googlebot will follow up to 10 redirect hops before stopping trying.

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

HTTP 4xx (client error)

Pages that return a 4xx status code will not be included in Google search results for indexing.

All 4xx errors except 429 are treated the same. They signal to the Googlebot that the content does not exist. If the content was already there, Google will remove the URL from the search index.

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

HTTP 5xx (server error)

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

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

For more information about these server errors, as well as information about DNS and server errors, see the full Google help document.

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