How to Check Your Web Server Status for Better SEO Results

One way to check the status of your Web server is to run a quick diagnostic test with a Check Server tool. This is a utility that attempts to crawl your site the same way a search engine spider does.

If the Check Server tool runs into any obstacles that could prevent a spider from indexing your site, it tells you about them on a report that the utility creates. Even if your content is perfect, a poorly functioning server can keep your site from reaching its full potential in the search engine rankings. It’s a good idea to run this diagnostic tool on a regular basis.

Although you can use any diagnostic tool, this example uses the free Check Server tool located on the SEO Toolset site. To run their Check Server, do the following:

  1. Go to the SeoToolset Free Tools page.

  2. Under the heading Check Server, enter your Web site’s domain (such as www.yourdomain.com).

  3. Click the Check Server Header button and wait until the report displays.

A Check Server tool performs several different page requests and checks the returned status codes and the content. If they don’t match up, by showing error codes or inconsistent page content, it may be that your server is showing the search engines an error, even though there’s no real problem. Having this information lets you fix issues quickly, which is important because search engines often reduce Web site rankings due to Web server errors they encounter. At the very least, even if you encounter a common error that would not cause you to be dropped from the index, a “cleaner” site is likely to rank higher in the search engine results.

The Check Server report identifies the server status code for a Web page.
The Check Server report identifies the server status code for a Web page.

Right below the table on the first page of the report, you’ll notice a number — in the above figure, it’s 200. This represents the Web page’s status as a search engine would see it. In this case, 200 means the page is normal.

The following table explains the most common server status codes. These server statuses are standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an independent governance organization that oversees Internet standards, so they mean the same thing to everyone. The table boils down the technical language into understandable English to show you what each server status code means about your Web page. The official definitions can be found on the W3C site in case you want to research further.

Server Status Codes and What They Indicate
Code Description Definition What It Means
200 OK The Web page appears as expected. This is what you want to see. Your server and Web page have the welcome mat out for the search engine spiders (and users too).
301 Moved Permanently The Web page has been redirected permanently to another Web page URL. When a search engine spider sees this status code, it moves easily to the appropriate new page. A 301 Redirect status is not a problem for your search engine optimization.
302 Found (Moved Temporarily) The Web page has been moved temporarily to a different URL. This status should raise a red flag if it’s on your Web server. Even though there are supposed to be legitimate uses for a 302 Redirect code, they can cause serious problems for your optimization efforts. Spammers frequently use 302 Redirects maliciously, so if you don’t want a search engine mistaking your site for a spam site, avoid them.
400 Bad Request The server could not understand the request because of bad syntax. This could be caused by a typo in the URL. Whatever the cause, you don’t want a search engine spider blocked from reaching your content pages, so investigate this if you see this status code on your site.
401 Unauthorized The request requires user authentication. Usually this means that you need to log in before you can view the page content. Not a good error for spiders to hit.
403 Forbidden The server understood the request, but refuses to fulfill it. If you find this status code on your Web site, find out why. If you want to block the spiders from entering, there ought to be a good reason.
404 Not Found The Web page is not available. You’ve seen this error code; it’s the Page Can Not Be Displayed page that displays when a Web site is down or nonexistent. You definitely do not want a spider following a link to your Web site only to be greeted by a 404 error! That’s like visiting a house and finding the lights off and the doors locked. If your server check shows you have a 404 error for one of your landing pages, you definitely want to fix it ASAP.
500 and up Miscellaneous Server Errors The 500–505 status codes indicate that something’s wrong with your server. Check it out.
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