Technical SEO knowledge is a must nowadays for any SEO professional who wants to stay in the industry and be successful. In a context where being an all-rounder is no longer a bonus, but an everyday necessity, let’s look at HTTP status codes and how we can use them.
In brief, when a web server services a page, the process generates a code, which then becomes part of the log. The basic five categories can be summarised like this:
-1xx – informational, indicates a provisional response
-2xx – shows the request has been received and processed successfully
-3xx – shows a redirection
-4xx – shows a client error, such as page-not-found, bad request etc
-5xx – shows server error, such as service unavailable etc
With the most common status being 2xx, which generally means the website is operating normally, and 4xx, which means the requested service couldn’t be found on the server, for SEO we need to pay particular attention to the most encountered redirect status codes – 301 and 302. The choice between the 2 can be critical.
The 301 redirect is used when a page is moved permanently, therefore telling Search engines to associate any link equity and domain authority with the new Url. Also, users will be automatically redirected to the new page once a 301 redirect has been implemented.
When redirection is temporary, a 302 redirect is normally used, which is a signal that redirects the page to another Url, but doesn’t associate the new page with any authority or link equity of the source.
The implications for SEO are very significant: a mistake when 302 is used instead of 301 and the other way around can lead to losses of link equity and page authority, implicitly affecting rankings and traffic.
While it is generally useful to know all types of redirects, their use and implications for SEO, a solid knowledge of 301 and 302, plus canonicalization, is an absolute must for a proficient SEO professional.