May 16, 2022

What Are HTTP Status Codes And How Can They Affect My Website?

What Are HTTP Status Codes And How Can They Affect My Website?

Picture the scene: you're casually browsing the Internet, maybe clamouring to get into the queue to secure tickets or access for the next sporting event/music concert/online sale.

You're excited! You start filling in your details, get your credit card from your wallet and then... disaster. An error page pops up.

Not only is it monstrously annoying, but you also may not have a clue what it means!

404? 503? What are these numbers? How do I get rid of them? Is it something I've done? - all things that may well go through your head as you frantically hit 'refresh' and try to get the page you really want.

We get it. We feel for you. This is why we're going to try and explain some of the common, the unusual and the downright weird HTTP Status Codes you may well come across.

What Is An HTTP Status Code?

Put simply, an HTTP Status Code is a code that is returned by the server (or the website you are trying to connect to) in response to the request you have made.

So you have typed in a website address (your request), and the server returns the code based on...well, the status of it.

You may not have seen many of these before, and unless you work in IT or technology, you'll probably go through your internet life without encountering them.

There are several different status codes, all beginning with numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Each of these categories can be summed up as such (the first number relates to the type of response, and the last two will define the kind of issue):

    • 1xx: Received and understood. This is a common response that is issued whilst the request continues, and you're unlikely ever to see it.
    • 2xx: Everything is good! The server has received the request, accepted it and delivered it successfully. If you've successfully loaded a webpage, this is an example of a 200 code.
    • 3xx: There needs to be a bit more work. The page will likely be redirected to another page for a specific reason.
    • 4xx: Something has gone wrong, and it's likely a user error (misspellings, trying to access things you don't have permissions for, etc.). Sorry to break it to you.
    • 5xx: Server error: The server has failed to fulfil the request - something's not working properly...the site may be down, for example. So it's someone else's're off the hook this time.

What Are The Common HTTP Status Codes?

There's every chance you've been online and experienced a status code without even being aware of it.

Like we said, loading a webpage is an example of a 2xx code (200, to be specific) but there are some you will see more often than others.

Here are a few that may be familiar (or bring back painful memories of missing out on those tickets...)

  • 404: Page Not Found. Simply, what you are trying to navigate to, isn't there. It may have been moved and no redirect set up (naughty), or it could be that you've not put the address in properly - either way, your journey hath ended here. Time to try something else.
  • 503: Service Not Available. Either the site is down for maintenance, or the server has become overloaded with requests and cannot display what you're looking for. It's usually temporary, so wait it out.
  • 504: Gateway Timeout. This will appear due to not being able to receive a timely response from the website you are trying to retrieve information from. Many different factors could cause this, from a slow connection to poorly-coded websites or a faulty firewall configuration.
  • 301: Moved Permanently. This one will be known to anyone in the marketing industry (possibly burned into their consciousness). The '301 redirect' is a response that the site/page you are trying to access has been moved and reassigned a different address. In simple terms, think of it as if you are moving home and having your post redirected to your new home - its exactly the same thing,

Are There Any Rare/Strange HTTP Status Codes?

There are over 60 different status codes, so it is unlikely that you will encounter all of them, especially for the casual internet user.

Some of the stranger or rarer ones you might find are:

  • 414: URL Too Long: This status indicates that the URL being used is too long for the server to interpret. This may arise due to an improperly converted POST request (ask your web developer) with long query information, or if the server is under attack - attackers may use long URLs to try and exploit holes in a website/server's security. Read more about the impact URL length can have on SEO and User Experience.
  • 451: Unavailable for Legal Reasons: If a website owner has had legal action issued against them, then a website or webpage with specific information on it may be made unavailable during this time. It is a rare status code as often the page will just be taken down, resulting in a 404 error as opposed to the 451, but it is there for those times when that has not occurred, or they may want to reinstate the page once the legal issue has been concluded.
  • 418: I'm A Teapot: This error code suggests that the server is refusing to brew coffee because it is, in fact, a teapot. Yes, really. This code references an April Fools' joke from 1998 and again in 2014. We've all been there really, though, haven't we?

We could carry on for ages explaining what all the other HTTP status codes mean and what you need to do to avoid them. Still, the above information should at least give you an idea of what some of the more basic and common codes mean and what you may need to do to fix them (even just brew some coffee).

Here at Orca Online Marketing, we always strive to ensure that all our clients' websites do what they should.

If you are struggling with your business' website, get in touch with our Web Pod on 01903 866143 or email us, and we'll see what we can do to make sure 404s don't hamper your days, and every day is a 200 day!

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