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SEO and Status Codes
UGH! As if there isn’t enough to learn as a new blogger, right? I’ll admit that it took me months to begin to comprehend even SOME of the aspects of SEO. When I first started blogging I kept seeing these three letters pop up in different conversations and blog posts. Finally, I did my own Google search for the definition – Search Engine Optimation. Now that we’ve defined SEO, let’s talk about Status Codes. Formally known as HTTPS Response Status Codes, these are the codes issued by the server when a request is made. In other words, when I click on www. awesomewebsite .com, I am requesting access from the server to this page. Depending on various details that I’ll get to in just a minute, the server assigns a code. Ideally, that status code still enables me to view the intended content either by taking me to the original page or redirecting me to the new page location.
Why Search Engine Optimation Matters
In order for your website to be successful, people have to be able to find you. Without proper SEO, this can get really hard. You can spam social media until the cows come home, but you’ll still be limited – extremely limited. Optimizing your website with good SEO techniques produce the “special sauce” that Google requires in order to crawl your links higher in the search engine. The more special sauce you toss out there, the better that link looks to a Google bot. You know the saying, “nobody looks past page 1?” It’s mostly true. Page one is, of course, the Holy Grail; however, if you can get your link to the first three pages, you’re doing a pretty good job.
What do Status Codes Have To Do with SEO
As I mentioned before, good SEO techniques help Google crawl your links closer and closer to that coveted space on Page One. Depending on how a link responds, Google assigns a code to that link. Likewise, if the link is doing exactly what it is supposed to do, Google will also assign a status code. Various status codes identify whether or not a user may be able to access the original page, redirected to a new page, or access the intended content at all. Below, you will learn the difference between some of the most common codes and what you should do to repair them (if necessary).
Common HTTP Response Status Codes
I’ve compiled a list of the most common status codes and what they mean. To make it simple, I’ll go in numerical order.
200 (OK) – This one means everything is splendid or, by actual definition, OK. Everything is in its original location, as it should be, and ready for more special sauce. Consider everything good if you see this code.
301 (REDIRECT) – This one means that the original page has been redirected BUT everything is still ok. 301 is code for permanent redirect meaning that everything associated with this page has been redirected to a new page. This link’s special sauce is not affected.
302 (FOUND) – This one is much like 301, with the exception that the redirect is expected to be temporary. In fact, it is often referred to as a 302 TEMPORARY. Although the page has been redirected and found, some of the “special sauce” is not forwarded with it.
404 (NOT FOUND) – This is the one you are probably most familiar with. Nothing drives readers away like clicking on a link and getting a big, fat 404 PAGE NOT FOUND OR NO LONGER EXISTS. If you notice a 404 on one your pages, you’re definitely going to want to fix it! While a 404 won’t affect your results in a search, they do affect the user experience and can affect a page’s SEO if the page should actually be redirected. For example, you moved the content on page A to page B. The content still exists, just not in the same location and therefore can not be found.
The good news is that you can easily fix this by implementing a redirect. A couple of the most common reasons a 404 will pop up is when a page has been permanently deleted and a redirect was not created or when a link was changed and the owner forgot to implement a 301 REDIRECT for that page. Be sure you stick to using a 301 to preserve your SEO special sauce.
So, How Do I Create a 301 REDIRECT?
Unless you have some coding knowledge and just enjoy messing with your php files, the easiest way to deal with implementing redirects is to use a plug. If you have the premium verison of Yoast SEO, you have access to a handy redirect manager. Otherwise, you can download one of many available plugins on WordPress. The plugin “Redirection” is a popular choice and makes everything pretty simple. Once it’s downloaded, just go to Tools > Redirection and enter the urls.
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