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404 Not Found’: A guide to HTTP status codes

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Have you ever landed on a page that hasn’t loaded properly, or has come up with an error, leaving you wondering why? Probably not, but the way in which these errors are communicated to browsers is very important for search engine optimisation (SEO).

Every webpage you visit returns an HTTP status code, which communicates with browsers, giving them additional information and instructions. Search bots see these codes and some of them can indirectly impact SEO negatively: these are known as crawl errors. On the right is a guide to the major HTTP status codes, and what they mean.

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Tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog allow webmasters to see what crawl errors a website has. As mentioned above, crawl errors can have an indirect impact on SEO: for example, a ‘404 Not Found’ crawl error may not directly impact SEO, but it does lead to a bad user experience (reduced click-through rates, drop-offs, and more negative online implications), which ultimately can impact SEO performance.

It is critical to monitor this on at least a monthly basis, as crawl errors can occur on critical business pages, and if customers cannot access those pages, due to search engine bots not being able to return the right page, it can lead to loss of traffic, which ultimately leads to loss of conversions and revenue.

There are some great, free browser plugins that users and webmasters can install, which can instantly tell you the HTTP status code – One recommendation is Ayima’s Redirect Path browser plugin.