Avoid e-commerce business killing HTTP errors

It takes a huge investment of both time and money to generate fresh leads or traffic in very competitive e-commerce or digital marketing. There is cut-throat competition among different players locally or internationally. Therefore it becomes so imperative that any online user should not face any unexpected problems or errors while navigating the online store website. Let’s not forget that any potential prospect can easily switch to other online stores if he is not satisfied with the usability and navigation of your site. So you may lose the buyer and that’s why they are termed as lost opportunities.

 

For a layman internet user the HTTP error codes may be annoying and just a piece of information about the site or web page he is accessing. Although these errors are common in the world of the web for e-commerce some of these are fatal, business killing errors and must be addressed as soon as possible. They are not just errors messages but also provide valuable information about the current status and health of the web pages so that webmasters can resolve them.

 

The HTTP status codes list is extensive therefore for digital marketers and from point of e-commerce only a few of them are important and require immediate attention. We will try to understand main important HTTP error  codes through below frequently asked questions.

What does HTTP status code mean?

In the server and client exchange, there is a server response of 3 digits for browser’s request. The first digit of the code tells about the response type. The response codes are divided into 5 categories.

1XX: It is informational in nature and indicates that the request has been received and in the process.

2XX: It tells whether the action was successful or not.

3XX: Provides information about redirection.

4XX: The request’s syntax is invalid and cannot be processed.

5XX: Different type of Server errors.

By looking at the first digit of the error code the webmasters can decipher the type of the problem and hence this categorization makes the job of the webmasters easy in finding the issues and resolving them to keep the site healthy. For example, if the error code starts with “5” then webmasters would know that there is something wrong in the server side.

If HTTP status codes start with digit “4” then there is the issue with the client side. Either the URLs are configured incorrectly or pages are broken.

Why HTTP status codes are extremely important for an e-commerce online store?

Not every error code is important for online marketing but given the nature of e-commerce and its tough competition, few of the HTTPs codes are highly relevant. The time spent on the site by internet user is already decreasing day by day by various distractions. So if any prospective buyer sees an error message he would simply abandon the site and will switch to your competitors.

If there are many broken pages then the search engine bots or crawlers time is wasted on the pages which no longer exist. Therefore this unnecessary crawling gives hint to the search engines that the site is not up to date and hence the site rank can be affected negatively.

 

If there are server-side HTTP status errors then search engines can estimate that particular site server is not responding to the requests properly and can give bad user experience. Every search engine is trying to improve user experience every day so no search engine would like to display these pages in SERPs to avoid a bad reputation. 

  

Understanding these valuable codes helps in reducing the downtime of the website. The 301 code can be used to tell the search engine crawlers that the corresponding page has been moved.

What does 200 status codes mean?

What does 200 status codes mean?

This shows that the requested page is found successfully. Getting 200 status codes is a common behavior for any webpage. If there were any problem then codes like 404 would have been displayed instead of 200 OK status codes.

This shows that the requested page is found successfully. Getting 200 status codes is a common behavior for any webpage. If there were any problem then codes like 404 would have been displayed instead of 200 OK status codes.

How do HTTP codes pass link equity?

The 301 status code helps in guiding the search crawlers or auto bots to the permanently moved pages. The link equity or juice is also passed to this new URL, so it helps in ranking. With the help of 301 redirect code the link juice earned from backlinks with old page, value, page rank and visitors are almost retained and transferred to the new page. If the user makes a search for the old page which has been moved out then 404 messages would be shown. Therefore to avoid confusion for the user or enhance the user experience 301 redirect code can be used. It can be used to avoid the duplicate content on the site.

Does 302 status code passes link juice?

No, it doesn’t. For temporary moving, this code can be used. The purpose of this code is totally different than 301 and must be used with cautiously. For example, if a situation arises where any product is out of stock then you can temporarily need to point to some other page then this is the right case for 302.

Where redirection should be used?

For small sites with few links using redirection codes are not important but when the sites with millions of pages are modified or content management system is changed then the use of 301 can help a lot and avoid unnecessary issues. It can be used in case of domain and directory change, to fix broken links, switching from HTTP to HTTPS and to direct traffics from other pages. The whole purpose of redirection is just not improving usability but also retaining the benefits of hard work done over a period of time. The multiple layers of redirection (a chain) may impact crawling and indexing so it should be used with great caution when there is such need. If there are so many internal links with redirects then to save the crawl budget they should be cleaned or have minimum linkages from other pages.

 How to prevent and correct 404 errors for better SEO ranking?

Think for a moment that if you are visiting an online store to buy a product. If you get a message, “Page is not found” or “File not found” on click of the link, what impression would you have in your mind about the aesthetics and performance of that store? Definitely, you will realize that the site is not properly updated and you may like to move to other sites to complete your purchase. If such a large number of error messages is received by different prospects, the site would start losing buyers.

It is just not about leads or traffic but search engines also track such usability related errors and can penalize sites by awarding low ranking in search engine results pages.

The group of 400 errors is called client-side issues and can be caused by the following reasons:-

  • The user typed the wrong URL address.   

  • The requested page has been deleted or moved out without any alternative (redirection or personalized message).

  • The page is temporarily is not available (maybe the page is in development phase).

  • The user clicks on the URL which has the typo.

In the above cases, the connection with the server will be established but instead of the requested page, the error message would be shown. These would irritate customers so better alternatives need to be provided through 301 redirect option or custom designs. There should be no dead end in the site navigation.

There are various SEO tools to check the broken links (internal and external) and images. One of the best tools is the Google Search Console. In this tool look for new Index Coverage Report and URL Inspection tool, analyze them and take the best action to clean these errors to avoid any bad user experience and search rank penalty.

The other source of finding the HTTP status codes errors is the server’s log files (transfer and error logs). The server records the key information related to transactions that took place between server and client. If any page which is producing 404 errors on a continuous basis then you can create redirect link using “.htaccess” file. The robot file can be used to avoid indexing of pages which are still in the development stage or are being changed frequently.

The dead end is not a good idea for any website and especially for online stores therefore to keep the customer engaged with the store he should be navigated to more meaningful pages like home, similar pages, resources etc. Generating such custom template or responsive pages would generate more trust among the customers about the performance and maintenance of the online store.

What do you mean by server-side HTTP status codes?

Like client-side errors, there are many server sides HTTP codes errors. These codes mean that request was accepted successfully but due to some problem on the server side the transaction could not complete.

500-internal server error would be displayed if an unexpected error occurred on the server side. The server resources like corrupt hard disk, outdated software tools or non-functional, syntax errors, wrong permissions for files etc. can cause this problem. It is generally ambiguous and not clear. Measures like updating tools, changing file permissions and configuration etc can solve such issue.

The 503-service unavailable would be shown if the server is overloaded and getting more request than the capacity, network or speed problem, virus attacks and offline due to maintenance. The server is working fine but not able to take request now. 

The correction and prevention of error message are crucial for online stores and sites. If there are a lot 404 messages then it would be taken as bad maintenance or irrelevant site by the search engines and customers which can lead to loss of revenue and site rank. The most important lessons in the e-commerce sector are that all the pages of products, tutorials, contact details should be loading and working fine. Therefore regular auditing, testing, and checks are necessary for the better health and ranking of the online store.