Error Page! How To Fix HTTP Errors Before They Hurt Your SEO
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Whether you’ve just migrated your website or your SEO team is performing its regular website maintenance, Error Page & Website Status Codes, otherwise known as HTTP or HTTPS Status Codes are one of the most common issues that can diminish any businesses’ SEO rankings. However, the most important matter at hand, they provide a negative aspect to your customer’s user experience.
It’s sad to think, your marketing team can do an incredible job compiling the most SEO-friendly Keywords and content in hopes to raise your Quality Score and website conversions, however, all that preparation means absolutely nothing if your customers are experiencing a disturbing HTTP Error Page when they try to visit your website.
In 2018, no matter the business, from e-commerce to healthcare, we’re all dealing with an entirely new type of consumer.
But above everything, they are all that matters.
Every one of your customers requires a fast and frictionless user experience, that must be optimized on every device. They leave tasks to the last minute and expect to accomplish them with little to no hiccups.
So, meeting their request to visit your site with any sort of HTTP Error Page is a one-way ticket to lower conversions and decreased Quality Scores. As the statistic above clearly states, once a user visits your website and leaves with an issue, your chances of ever having that customer repeat their visit drops drastically.
In today’s blog, we’re going to present the most common HTTP Errors and Status Codes, show you how you and your team can diagnose them, understand their level of importance, and give tips on what your team can do to immediately fix them, so your company’s search engine rankings and user experience doesn’t go down the drain.
Your goal as a company is to provide the optimal user experience for every customer that visits your site.
First off, try thinking of your website like you would your personal health. If you desire to stay in tip-top shape, you need to remain healthy. If you truly want to be healthy, it’s all about the preventative and reactionary care that you perform on a day-to-day basis. You get out what you put in.
It’s essential to keep regular maintenance on your weight and eating habits so your trip to the doctor isn’t a slap in the face.
Your Website works in a similar fashion. HTTP Error pages are going to happen. There’s no question there. But, if your SEO team monitors every aspect of your website very carefully, you’ll ensure you’re aware of any HTTP Errors when they happen so you can improve your customer user experience and SEO rankings before it builds into a substantial website issue.
The purpose of any piece of content, especially your website, is to improve your customer’s life and complete their “job-to-be-done.” In order to successfully accomplish that feat, your team must familiarize themselves with the error pages your potential customers are facing.
Important Questions to Strategize for an Error Page:
- What are your customer’s trying to know?
- Where are your customer’s trying to go?
- What are your customer’s trying to do?
- What are your customer’s trying to buy?
Where to Monitor HTTP Website Status & Error Codes
The thing to remember, no business will consistently produce a website without any errors. They are going to happen, but where you can set yourself apart from the competition is in your attentiveness to identify and act on fixing the errors.
If your SEO team is beginning to witness an increase in HTTP Website Errors, this could be an optimal time for your company to think about the software you’re using to monitor your website. The examples below will automatically detect problems and report them to you and your team so you don’t have to waste time constantly researching issues.
The Most Common HTTP Website Codes
Like I stated earlier, think about HTTP errors as your health, if your dentist tells you she’s concerned about a tooth, then you better act on improving your oral care routine or else it will snowball into other issues.
Before your team makes any moves to fix your company’s website errors, do a thorough systems backup. Always better to be safe than sorry.
What is an HTTP 500 Internal Server Error Page?
A 500 Internal Server Error page is the most commonly found website error. It denotes that the server is overloaded or busy at that time of the search, so it’s unable to process the user’s request.
However, since our potential customer wants answers immediately your SEO team needs to efficiently solve these issues so you can increase your website conversions and Quality Score, not the other way around.
Note: When a customer wants to visit your site and are met by a 500 Error, it’s as if they just drove across town to visit a fictional retail, brick and mortar version of your website, but you’ve moved locations without giving any response as to why or where. These are anything but positive for your user experience.
How to Fix an HTTP 500 Internal Server Error
Things to Troubleshoot for 500 Internal Service Errors:
- Check new software upgrades or installations. A simple refresh can ensure you’ve uploaded the new software correctly.
- Monitor plugins and themes. It’s common that during new software updates, older versions of plugins and themes may not work properly or may not work at all when combined with other plugins or themes. Troubleshoot these to ensure they’re not the cause of your 500 Error.
- Watch the server permissions. It’s common that someone placed incorrect permission on a file or folder that contains a PHP or CGI script that produced the 500 error. Check to see what the permissions should be and make sure they’re updated on your server.
- Monitor errors in .htaccess files. A coding mistake of a .htaccess file may cause this error. Make sure it’s properly structured for your benefit.
- Monitor errors in scripts. Make sure you’re not programming scripts in resources that aren’t available.
- A PHP Timeout. If your script connects to external resources and those resources timeout, an HTTP 500 error can occur.If all of those attempts are still unsuccessful, be sure to reach out to Evolve Digital Labs for personalized assistance with your 500 Internal Server Error.
What is an HTTP 404 Not Found Error Page?
A 404 Not Found Error page occurs when a potential customer tries to access a certain website page that no longer exists. Typically, most 404 Errors are triggered by broken URLs, incorrect links, or from a redirect page that isn’t there anymore.
Normally, these errors are quite simple to fix as long as you are using Google Search Console or Screaming Frog to regularly crawl your website.
From the user’s side, sometimes this can be easily fixed by simply deleting their cookies, refreshing their web browser or coming back to the website at another time.
Like preventative healthcare practices we spoke about earlier, we’d suggest setting up custom 404 pages and keeping them in your current content branding standards; this will ensure that when and if a user comes in contact with a 404 Error they’re met by a customized page, improving their user experience.
The above example from Lego is what a creative and user-friendly 404 Error Not Found page should look like. It’s customized to fit Lego’s brand, tone, and voice, so even though the user’s journey with their brand is slightly jarred, they should easily get back on course, after a slight chuckle.
How to Fix an HTTP 404 Not Found Error
The problem with 404 Errors is that new errors can occur on a regular basis, especially on your active website pages.
Things to Troubleshoot for 404 Not Found Errors:
- Redirect the 404 Error page somewhere else. If people aren’t reaching your website’s error page, your team needs to tell your server to redirect people to the intended error page.
- Correct the source link. Check to make sure your website’s broken link is sending traffic to the “not found error page” your team has created.
- Restore deleted pages. During website maintenance, if you delete a page and a user visits your website to find that page you deleted. If somebody tries to find a deleted page, they’ll get a 404 Error. To fix this, you can usually restore the deleted page.
What are HTTP 301 & 302 Redirect Codes?
A Redirect Code is a way to send both users and search engine bots to a different webpage from the one they originally requested. The two most commonly used redirects are 301 and 302.
301 Moved Permanently Code
This indicates that the server recognizes that the requested resource is invalid and that the request should permanently be redirected to a new, designated URL.
It’s as if your user would visit a retail store and they’re looking for their favorite plastic cups. But instead of them being able to locate their cup in the normal paper and plastic section, they’ve permanently been moved to the “cup” section in the store. Typically, your prospective customer wouldn’t even notice this, unless they were to look at the URL design.
301 Redirects aren’t negative towards your SEO juice, but as they compile you may see your website’s performance drop. They will drastically increase page load time and decrease the overall quality and user experience of your site. In 2018, every second counts, so its best to keep an eye on these.
An easy way to spot any issues, run a crawl with Screaming Frog and they’ll identify every redirected URL.
The tricky part of diagnosing the issue will be going through the process of double-checking what resources and URLs are generating 301 Moved Permanently response codes and determining if these codes are appropriate or not.
Do Note: These redirects are server-side and perform much quicker than client-side redirects.
The two most important aspects to keep in mind are:
- Never link to a page that you know has a redirect on it. Always change the links to the new destination page.
- Never require more than one redirect to get to any of your resources.
Sometimes redirects keep piling up as new pages are created. And that’s what slows down your website performance. This pile-up of pages is called a “redirect chain”. A redirect chain is where one page redirects to another, then redirects to another. For SEO best practices we’d suggest just linking to the last page from the start.
302 Found (Moved Temporarily) Error Page:
This tells your user that their requested resource will temporarily be accessed at a different URL.
Use your website crawling tool, like Screaming Frog to monitor what resources and URLs are generating 302 Found response codes and determining if these codes are appropriate or not.
It’s as if your prospective customer is visiting your retail store before the school year starts and they’re looking for notebooks and other school supplies. Well, instead of being in their normal aisle, they’ve moved to a seasonal “back to school” aisle.
Do note: With 302 Redirects your website may lose SEO juice through the process of redirecting because you’re temporarily directing traffic to another link, so it’s best to prioritize these to ensure your Quality Score doesn’t fall.
How to Fix HTTP 301 & 302 Redirect Codes
Things to Troubleshoot:
- Try to access the current URL and pay attention carefully to which URL is displayed
- Check the 301 responses from the Web server. They should always include an alternative URL to which the redirection should occur. If it does, a Web browser will immediately retry the alternative URL
If all of those attempts are still unsuccessful, be sure to reach out to Evolve Digital Labs for more specific help with your 301 & 302 Errors.
What are HTTP 400, 401 & 403 Error Codes?
If your website is coming back with HTTP 400 Errors these messages are telling you that your web browser accessed the website page incorrectly or that your user’s request was corrupted during the process.
HTTP 400 Bad Request Error:
A 400 Bad Request Error page indicates that the server is not able to process the request sent by the web browser. If the server is anticipating a customized HTTP header and it is missing or invalid, a 400 Bad Request Error is a likely result.
HTTP 401 Unauthorized Error:
The 401 Unauthorized Error page is an HTTP response status code that indicates that the request sent by the potential customer or user could not be authenticated by the server.
A 401 Unauthorized Error tells the user that the website they’re attempting to access is restricted and requires authentication, but the user has failed to provide that verification.
HTTP 403 Forbidden Error:
The 403 Forbidden Error page, means that the user made a valid request to visit the chosen website page, but the server is refusing to serve the request because they don’t have permission to access the requested web page.
How to Fix HTTP 400, 401 & 403 Errors
Common Causes of 4xx HTTP Error Pages:
- Watch the size of your files. Most web servers have limits that prevent big files from being uploaded and slowing the bandwidth of the server.
- Watch URL design. Many 400 Errors will occur when a potential customer attempts to access an invalid URL.
- Watch your cookies.
Things to Troubleshoot for A 4XX HTTP Error Page:
- Clear the browser’s cookies. One reason for 400 Bad Request Errors is an invalid or duplicate cookie. HTTP cookies are tiny pieces of data, which are used by websites to remember information about this particular browser. Clearing them can take care of certain loading issues for websites.
- Try uploading a smaller file. If you’re experiencing a 400 Bad Request Error while uploading a file of some sort, try testing with a different, much smaller file to see if this resolves the 400 Bad Request Error. This includes file “uploads” that don’t actually come from your local computer — even files sent from other computers are considered “uploads” from the perspective of the web server running your application.
- Check recent upgrades. If you recently updated the content management system itself just before the 400 Bad Request Error appears, you may want to consider rolling back to the previous version you had installed when things were working fine. Similarly, any extensions or modules that you may have recently upgraded can also cause server-side issues, so reverting to previous versions of those may also help.
- Clear the DNS Cache
- Clear your browser’s Cache
- Debug common platforms. If you’re making modifications to the underlying extensions or PHP code, common errors occur during this process
- Check the requested URL. As mentioned, the most common cause of a 400 Bad Request Error is simply inputting an incorrect URL.
- Incorrect file or folder permissions
- Incorrect settings in .htaccess file
- Disable WordPress plugins
If all of those attempts are still unsuccessful, be sure to reach out to Evolve Digital Labs for more in-depth assistance with your 400, 401 & 403 Errors.
Your website data and analytics are your most valuable source of information. The data that your SEO team monitors will aid your team in understanding what aspects your business should focus on to maximize your website traffic, increase Quality Score, and perfect your customer’s user experience.
Let‘s test out what you’ve learned….
For an additional list of ALL HTTP Errors, visit the link below:
Keep in mind, every website is a fragile chain. When any piece of code is altered or changed it affects the dominos down the line. However, these tips, along with our free download of the Website Migration Checklist For SEO Experts will help you and your team easily avoid a devastating migration and have your company’s website up and running without losing SEO rankings.
At Evolve Digital Labs, we have spearheaded countless successful website migrations for organizations large and small. The projects have spanned the spectrum from simple domain transfers to complete overhauls of server infrastructure, content management agendas, templates, and pages.
Regardless of the type of transfer, your business is going through, a solid plan is your best bet at achieving a successful move. We invite you to follow the steps in this checklist so you can ensure your business undergoes an effective website migration that doesn’t lose traffic or search rankings.
If managing your company’s Website HTTP Error Page issues sounds like something outside of your wheelhouse, let’s chat. Evolve Digital Labs is here to help