HTTP status codes are like short notes from a server that get tacked onto a web page. They’re not actually part of the site’s content. Instead, they’re messages from the server letting you know how things went when it received the request to view a certain page.

These kinds of messages are returned every time your browser interacts with a server, even if you don’t see them. If you’re a website owner or developer, understanding HTTP status codes is critical. When they do show up, HTTP status codes are an invaluable tool for diagnosing and fixing website configuration errors.

This article introduces several server status and error codes, and explains what they reveal about what’s happening on the server behind the scenes.

Let’s dive in!

What Are HTTP Status Codes?

Every time you click on a link or type in a URL and press Enter, your browser sends a request to the webserver for the site you’re trying to access. The server receives and processes the request, and then sends back the relevant resources along with an HTTP header.

HTTP status codes are delivered to your browser in the HTTP header. While status codes are returned every single time your browser requests a web page or resource, most of the time you don’t see them.

It’s usually only when something goes wrong that you might see one displayed in your browser. This is the server’s way of saying: “Something isn’t right. Here’s a code that explains what went wrong.”

google 404 http status codes

Google 404 HTTP status code

If you want to see the status codes that your browser doesn’t normally show you, there are many different tools that make it easy. Browser extensions are available for developer-friendly platforms such as Chrome and Firefox, and there are many web-based header fetching tools like Web Sniffer.

To see HTTP status codes with one of these tools, look for the line appearing near the top of the report that says “Status: HTTP/1.1”. This will be followed by the status code that was returned by the server.

Understanding HTTP Status Code Classes

HTTP status codes are divided into 5 “classes”. These are groupings of responses that have similar or related meanings. Knowing what they are can help you quickly determine the general substance of a status code before you go about looking up its specific meaning.

The five classes include:

Within each of these classes, a variety of server codes exist and may be returned by the server. Each individual code has a specific and unique meaning, which we’ll cover in the more comprehensive list below.

Why HTTP Status Codes and Errors Matter for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine bots see HTTP status codes while they’re crawling your site. In some cases, these messages can influence if and how your pages get indexed, as well as how search engines perceive the health of your site.

Generally speaking, 100- and 200-level HTTP status codes won’t have much impact on your SEO. They signal that everything is working as it should on your site, and enable search engine bots to continue on their way. However, they aren’t going to boost your rankings either.

For the most part, it’s the higher-level codes that matter for SEO. 400- and 500-level responses can prevent bots from crawling and indexing your pages. Too many of these errors can also indicate that your site isn’t of high quality, possibly lowering your rankings.

300-level codes have a bit more complicated relationship with SEO. The main thing you need to know to understand their impact is the difference between permanent and temporary redirects, which we’ll cover in more detail in the relevant section below.

In a nutshell, however, permanent redirects share link equity from backlinks, but temporary ones do not. In other words, when you use temporary redirects for pages that have moved, you lose the SEO advantage of all the link building you’ve done.

Checking for HTTP Status Codes in Google Search Console

One way to monitor how Google perceives the HTTP status codes on your site is to use Google Search Console. You can view 300-, 400-, and 500-level status codes in the Coverage report:

search console coverage

Google Search Console’s Coverage report

This area of your dashboard shows four types of content on your site:

You may find pages with 300-, 400-, and 500-level HTTP status codes under the Excluded, Error, or Valid with warnings sections, depending on the type of code. For instance, 301 redirects may be listed under Excluded as Page with redirect:

search console redirect

A page with a redirect in Google Search Console’s Coverage report.

400- and 500-level status codes will likely turn up under Error.

Another way to view HTTP status codes is by using the URL Inspection tool. If Google is unable to index a specific page due to an error, you’ll see that here:

search console 404

A 404 error in Google Search Console’s URL Inspection tool

For more tips on using Google Search Console, check out our comprehensive guide to the platform.

A Complete Guide and List of HTTP Status Codes

While there are over 40 different server status codes, you’ll likely encounter fewer than a dozen on a regular basis. Below, we’ve covered the more common ones, as well as a few of the more obscure codes you may still run across.

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100 Status Codes

A 100-level status code tells you that the request you’ve made to the server is still in progress for some reason. This isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s just extra information to let you know what’s going on.

200 Status Codes

This is the best kind of HTTP status code to receive. A 200-level response means that everything is working exactly as it should.

300 Status Codes

Redirection is the process used to communicate that a resource has been moved to a new location. There are several HTTP status codes that accompany redirections, in order to provide visitors with information about where to find the content they’re looking for.

400 Status Codes

At the 400 level, HTTP status codes start to become problematic. These are error codes specifying that there’s a fault with your browser and/or request.

Nginx 401 authorization required error in Chrome

Nginx 401 authorization required error in Chrome

im a teapot http status code

418 “I’m a teapot” status code

429 too many requests

429 too many requests

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500 Status Codes

500-level status codes are also considered errors. However, they denote that the problem is on the server’s end. This can make them more difficult to resolve.

error establishing a database connection

Error establishing a database connection

Where to Learn More About HTTP Status Codes

In addition to the HTTP status codes we’ve covered in this list, there are some more obscure ones you may want to learn about. There are several resources you can consult to read up on these rarer codes, including:

Knowing these status codes may help you resolve some unique issues while maintaining your own website, or even when you encounter them on other sites.

They might seem intimidating at first, but HTTP status codes are important to understand what's happening on your site. Here's a thorough list of those you should get familiar with! 📟🌐Click to Tweet

Summary

While they may seem confusing or intimidating on the surface, HTTP status codes are actually very informative. By learning some of the common ones, you can troubleshoot problems on your site more quickly.

In this post, we’ve defined 40+ HTTP status codes that you may encounter. From the milder 100- and 200-level codes to the trickier 400- and 500-level errors, making sense of these messages is crucial for maintaining your website and making sure it’s accessible to users.


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