How to get indexed in Google: Be friendly, predictable for the googlebot

This post is for server geeks. Everyone else should flee. Here we are talking about the underlying codes that every server sends along with html of a web site design when a page is requested from your website.

There are really only a few httpd server codes that should ever be sent on purpose:

1. Code 200 OK

This status code tells browsers (and the googlebot) that everything is a-okay. The content sent with the code appears to be just what was requested. Code 200 says “Yes, I have that content right here. This is the right location for requesting it, and I’m sending it to you now.”

2. Code 301 (A redirect)

A status code 301 tells the googlebot that content has moved. There isn’t a penalty applied to 301 redirects in the search engines, which makes it ideal for:
– Redirecting traffic to the www version of your domain (to solve possible duplicate content issues)
– Redirecting traffic from old or broken URLs

3. Code 404

A status code 404 tells visiting search engine spiders like the googlebot that the content is missing. After receiving a 404 error after several visits, most search engines will remove the page from their listings.

These are the HTTP status codes that should be sent to the server in most cases. Other status codes – like the dread 302 redirect – will usually only cause problems. One site we recently analyzed sent these codes when the hompage was requested:
302 (Redirected to another page)
404 (Missing. The page they were redirected to was missing!)
Then the HTML of the homepage was returned as the 404 error page. What a wild ride for the Googlebot!

Curious about what codes are being returned by your server? Try our new SEO Diagnostic tool, currently in beta.

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