Redirects & Error Messages - Why Poor Implementation Will Hurt Your SEO
If you frequent Google's Search Console often you may have stumbled across the crawl errors tab, an extremely important section which for the beginner can go completely unchecked. This blog should give you a basic overview of crawl errors and highlight the importance of best practice implementition and how it can affect your rankings.
What Are Crawl Errors?
The cleverly named Crawl Errors section in Search Console highlights pages on your site where Google has had dificulty crawling said page and detected a HTTP error code.
Common error codes picked up by Google are typically carry a 4XX (404 etc.)) or 5XX (503 etc.) status.
5XX Status Codes
5XX status codes indicate there is an error with the server the site is hosted on, they come in the following flavours:
- 500 Internal Server Error
- The server has encountered a problem which stopped it from completing a specified request
- 501 Not Implemented
- The server doesn't understand or doesn't support the request type
- 502 Bad Gateway
- There's no response from the server usually because the site is under to much strain from users. A good example of this is the Imgur Giraffe or Twitter Fail Whale
- 503 Service Unavailable
If you do find a bunch of these errors, shout at your web developer or hosting provider (or get us to)
4XX Status codes
400 status codes are client errors meaning you've probably fubbed up somewhere when putting in your URL or the owner of the site has made an oopsie (technical term). These can usually be fixed with appropriate redirects.
4XX errors come in a few tasty varieties, most popular being:
- 401 Unauthorise
- a 401 error usually indicates that you don't have the appropriate level of acces to visit that specific URL. Typically you'll need a user ID and password.
- 403 Forbidden.
- The server understands the request made by the client but has been disallowed. Similar to a 401 It might be that you're trying to visit a URL that you don't have access rights too
- 404 Not Found
- The most common error you're likely to see on the web. 404s appear when you've made a request to view a page that either no longer exists (it's been deleted) or it has never existed (you've typed the URL wrong).
It's extremely important that your site handles 404 errors properly. More often than not most developers might create a funny custom 404 page which instead of returning a proper 404 error status in the header returns either a 301, 302 or even 200 ok error!
This is worse than a genuine 404 in Google's eyes. If a page is broken or missing Google wants to know. To quote Google
"It's like a giraffe wearing a name tag that says "dog." Just because it says it's a dog, doesn't mean it's actually a dog. Similarly, just because a page says 404, doesn't mean it's returning a 404."
Redirect do what they say on the tin. They redirect one URL and point them to another URL. They come in two flavours: 301 redirects and 302. Both work exactly the same way but have two very different purposes and very different effects on SEO.
- 301 (Permanent) Redirect
- A 301 redirect is recommended for best practice SEO. When you use a permanent redirect you're preserving that original pages "link equity". In essence the trust and authority that page has gained is passed across using a 301 to the new URL.
- 302 (Temporary) Redirect
- A 302 Temporary redirect passes no link equity (link juice in the biz) and more often than not should'nt be used in place of a 301.
Want to check your site for errors? This Monthly Website Checklist will show you how...