HTTP status codes and web positioning

Learn how status codes and changes to them affect your rankings

Diego Delgado García

HTTP status codes are part of the HTTP protocol and provide a standardized way to communicate the status of an HTTP request. Status codes have a direct influence on how crawlers crawl your site and therefore on the positioning of your website. As a general rule, the status that a crawler expects to receive is the code 200 (successful response), however, due to changes in the url architecture , broken links or any other event, whether from the server or not, it is very likely that the crawler end up finding other error codes, therefore, having control over these will influence your positioning.

What status codes are there?

In general, HTTP status codes provide important information to search engines about the availability and accessibility of your content. For good SEO, it's important to make sure you're using HTTP status codes correctly and that you're providing 200 status codes for the pages you want to be crawled and indexed, and 404 or 410 status codes for the pages you want. to be removed from the search index.

Here's a rundown of some of the most common HTTP status codes and when they're typically used:

1xx Codes (Informative Responses):

  • 100 Continue : The server has received the request headers, and the client should proceed to send the request body.
  • 101 Switching Protocols : The server understands and is willing to comply with the client's request to switch to another protocol.

2xx Codes (Successful Responses):

When a search engine encounters a 200 (OK) status code, it understands that the page exists, has been found, and is available for crawling and indexing. This is the ideal status code for a page that you want to be indexed and ranked for.

  • 200 OK: The request has been successful. The meaning of a success varies depending on the HTTP method.
  • 201 Created: The request was successful and a new resource was created as a result.
  • 204 No Content: The request was successful, but it does not need to return an entity body.

3xx Codes (Redirect Responses):

Search engines treat redirects (301 and 302) as indications that content has been moved to a new location. Typically they will follow the redirect to the new location and update their index to reflect the change. In general, a 301 (Moved Permanently) redirect passes more "link juice" or SEO value to the new page than a 302 (Found) redirect, which is considered temporary.

  • 301 Moved Permanently: This and all future requests should be directed to the given URL.
  • 302 Found (previously "Moved Temporarily"): The request URL has been temporarily changed. Future requests should still use the original URL.
  • 304 Not Modified: Indicates that the resource has not been modified since the last request.

4xx Codes (Customer Errors):

These codes indicate an error. For example, a 404 (Not Found) code tells a search engine that a page does not exist . Over time, if a search engine receives a 404 for a specific page, it will stop crawling and indexing that page. A 410 (Gone) code is similar, but indicates that the page has been permanently removed and is usually faster to de-index the page.

  • 400 Bad Request: The request could not be understood or is formatted incorrectly.
  • 401 Unauthorized: Authentication is required to get the requested response.
  • 403 Forbidden: The client does not have the rights to access the content.
  • 404 Not Found: The server cannot find the requested resource.
  • 410 Gone: The requested resource has been permanently removed from the server.

5xx Codes (Server Errors):

These codes indicate that there is a problem with the website's server. For example, a 500 (Internal Server Error) code can cause a search engine to stop crawling a site if it encounters too many of them, as it suggests there are stability issues with the site.

  • 500 Internal Server Error: The server has encountered a situation that it does not know how to handle.
  • 502 Bad Gateway: The server was acting as a gateway or proxy and received an invalid response from the upstream server.
  • 503 Service Unavailable: The server is not ready to handle the request.

I want to delete content, what status should I use?

HTTP status codes are an integral part of how the web works. When we talk about 404 and 410 codes, we are referring to status codes that indicate that a resource is not available. However, there is a subtle but important difference between the two:

  • 404 Not Found : This is the status code that is returned when a resource is not found on the server, but there is no clear indication whether the absence is temporary or permanent. In theory, a URL that returns a 404 could have content in the future. Search engines may continue to check these URLs periodically to see if the content has reappeared.
  • 410 Gone : This status code is a stronger signal. Indicates that the resource is not available and that this is an expected long-term condition. In other words, the resource has been permanently deleted and is not expected to return. Search engines can interpret a 410 as a signal to stop crawling and index that URL more quickly than a 404.

Both codes are recognized and respected by all major search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

As for when to use each, here's a general guide:

  • Use a 404 when : The page does not exist and you have no intention of creating it, but it may exist in the future. For example, if a user tries to visit a misspelled URL on your site, a 404 would be appropriate.
  • Use a 410 when : You know that a specific page has been taken down and you have no intention of bringing it back online in the future. For example, if you had a product page for a product that you no longer sell and will not sell again, a 410 would be appropriate.

It's important to note that from an SEO standpoint, the difference between 404 and 410 is quite subtle and likely won't have much of an impact on most sites. The most important thing is to make sure that you're providing some kind of error response when a resource isn't available, rather than just letting a timeout or server error occur.

Update URLs or domains

How do I redirect my site to another domain (using 301)

If you have a URL that no longer exists and has been replaced by a new location, you should use a 301 (Moved Permanently) redirect. This is an HTTP status code indicating that the content that was previously at that URL has been permanently moved to a new location.

The 301 code is a strong signal to search engines that the old URL should no longer be indexed and that they should update their indexes to point to the new URL. Additionally, a 301 redirect will also pass most of the link juice (or SEO value) from the old URL to the new one, which is beneficial for maintaining your search engine rankings.

Here is an example of how a 301 redirect could be set up in an .htaccess file on a server running Apache:

Redirect 301 /old-url

Just make sure to replace /old-url with the path of the old page and with the new location of the page.

It's also important to remember to update any internal links on your website that point to the old URL to point to the new URL, to avoid unnecessary redirects for users.

How long does search engines take to update URLs?

Although 301 redirects are a strong signal to search engines that a page has moved permanently, how quickly Google and other search engines act on this signal can vary and depends on several factors:

  • Crawling and indexing frequency : Google does not crawl all web pages at the same rate. Pages that are updated frequently or have a high PageRank may be crawled more often, while pages with fewer changes or lower PageRank may not be crawled as often. If you've implemented a 301 redirect on a page that Google doesn't crawl often, it may take some time before Google discovers the redirect.
  • Trust in the redirect signal : Google may be wary of acting on 301 redirects if it has detected that the redirect has changed multiple times, or if the redirect points to a page that is not similar to the original page. To make sure that Google honors your 301 redirect, try to make sure that the landing page is as similar to the original page as possible in terms of content and structure.
  • Glitches : If your 301 redirect isn't set up correctly, Google may not be able to follow the redirect. Make sure the redirect is working correctly, check your .htaccess file or your server settings for any errors.
  • Time : Sometimes, it just takes time. Although it can be frustrating, sometimes the answer is simply that you need to give Google time to process the redirect.

To help speed up the process, you can use Google Search Console . There is an option to submit a URL for indexing. This can help speed up the process of getting the new page indexed and the old page unindexed. Although keep in mind that Google may prefer the old url to the new one, this preference can cause the url to take months to update.

I want to modify / delete structural content of my website

Remove the site in a specific language from my website

Removing languages from a website can have a significant impact on your site's indexing and ranking, especially if you had content that ranked well in those languages. Here are some implications:

  • Loss of traffic – If you had visitors coming to your site via the other language versions that you are removing, you will likely see a drop in traffic as those users are no longer able to find content in their preferred language.
  • Change in search rankings – Google and other search engines consider the language of the page as an important factor in determining which users should see that page. By removing languages, you'll likely see changes in your search rankings as Google re-evaluates your site for users of different languages.
  • Redirects – If you're redirecting other language versions to a different language version, this can create a confusing user experience if users expect content in one language and are redirected to another. While 301 redirects can help preserve some of your SEO value, they don't completely replace the need to have content in the original language.
  • Impact on indexing – Google and other search engines will have to re-crawl and re-index your site after you've made the changes. During this time, you may see fluctuations in your search rankings as search engines process the changes.

To minimize the negative impact, you should ensure that you are correctly implementing 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones, and that you are updating your sitemap to reflect the changes. You should also carefully consider the needs of your users: if you have a large number of users who prefer the languages you are removing, it may be best to keep those languages if possible.

I want to restructure my site, how can it affect me?

Changing the URLs of a website's pages can have a significant impact on SEO and rankings on Google and Bing. Here are some possible repercussions:

  • Temporary change in search ranking : Google and Bing need time to crawl and index new URLs and de-index old ones. During this time, you could see a temporary drop in your search rankings.
  • Loss of link juice : If the old URLs have inbound links from other websites, those pages are passing SEO value to the old URLs. If you change the URLs without implementing 301 redirects, you may lose this SEO value. 301 redirects help preserve this SEO value by telling search engines that the page has permanently moved to a new URL.
  • User Experience – If users have your old URLs flagged or if there are links to your old URLs on other websites, users may end up in 404 pages if you don't implement redirects. This can create a bad user experience and increase your bounce rate, which can negatively affect your SEO.
  • Technical workload : Changing the URLs of a website can be a technical process that requires time and resources. If not implemented correctly, it can cause site errors that can affect your SEO and user experience.

That being said, sometimes there are good reasons to change the URLs on a website. If you decide to do so, it's important to have a plan in place to minimize the impact on SEO. Here are some things you can do:

  • Implement 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones to preserve SEO value and avoid broken links.
  • Update your sitemap to reflect the new URLs and submit it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Consider using the address change tool in Google Search Console if you're moving your entire site to a new domain.
  • Keep an eye on your search rankings and traffic in Google Analytics and Google Search Console to quickly identify and fix any issues.


HTTP status codes are a crucial part of communication on the web. They tell browsers and search engines how to interpret a particular page or resource. Handling status codes correctly can help improve your SEO by making your site easier for search engines to crawl and index. At the same time, you can improve the user experience by ensuring that visitors are directed to the correct content and are properly informed if a page or resource is unavailable.

A web positioning company like "Linkses Network" can be of great help when dealing with issues of status codes, website migrations and content removal.