By Bruce Clay

One way to check the status of your server for SEO is to run a quick diagnostic utility called a Check Server tool. This utility attempts to crawl your site the same way that a search engine spider does. If the Check Server tool runs into any obstacles that could prevent the 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.

You can use any Check Server tool you have access to. Or you can use this free Check Server. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to SEOToolSet.com’s Free Tools.

  2. Go to the Check Server Page tool and enter your website’s domain (such as www.yourdomain.com) in the Your URL text box.

  3. Click the Check Response Headers button and wait until the report appears.

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 website rankings because of web server errors that they encounter. At the very least, even if you encounter a common error that would not cause a search engine to drop you from its index, a cleaner site likely ranks higher in the search engine results.

In the first row of the table on the report, you’ll notice a number — below, it’s 200. This represents the web page’s status as a search engine would see it. The server code that you see below, 200, means the page is normal.

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.

The table below 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. You can find the official definitions on the W3C site, in case you want to research further.

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
isn’t 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 you find it 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 these redirects.
400 Bad Request The server couldn’t understand the request because of bad
syntax.
This code could appear because of 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 code 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 understands the request but refuses to fulfill
it.
If you find this status code on your website, 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 isn’t available. You’ve seen this error code; it’s the Page Can Not
Be Displayed page that appears when a website is down or
nonexistent. You definitely don’t want a spider following a
link to your website 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 out what’s causing the problem.

From the Check Server report, you can also glean whether the page is cloaked. Cloaking (showing one version of a page’s content to users but a different version to the spiders) is a big no-no with the search engines, so if your page appears to be cloaked, you need to know about it. If the page uses cloaking, the Check Server report says so.