A little personal information here (not to worry, not too much info)…I haven’t been sleeping well lately. My wife says it’s because of my over consumption of caffeine. My incredulous response, “Pft! Sure, like caffeine makes it hard to sleep.” as I Super Big Gulp another 44 oz. of pure happiness. With that out of the way, I’ve tried to find other ways to get to sleep. Then I discovered the cure…HTTP Headers and Status Codes. Reading about them for 15 min. at 11:30 at night and I’m out like a light. So, let me share a summary for those of you suffering in silence. Insomnia can be treated, please…don’t lose hope. Read on, I beg you!
What are HTTP Headers? HTTP is an acronym for ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol”. A protocol used by the entire internet. If you have more than 15 minutes of internet experience, you know this- and are begging me to get on with it. But hey, you are the one who went ahead and read a paragraph that started with the phrase ‘What are HTTP Headers’, so this is on you, my friend! Back on track…every time a page is requested the HTTP header is sent over from the server and it will include a status code, telling the browser how the request is doing…you know a quick Facebook-like status update from a server to the browser. Depending on this status code, the user may see different things. If all is good- they will see the site. If there are errors then the visitor may see something else. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Why are HTTP Headers important? SEOs can determine quite a bit about the health of a site by this status code. They will be able to see if everything is okay, if a 301 redirect has been correctly done, if a page has been lost in the internet’s elephant graveyard and leading a visitor to a dead end or if an internal error has occurred. The remedy will depend on identifying and understanding the status code returned by the server. So let’s take a look at a) identifying the status codes and b) understanding them.
Identifying Status Codes: Learning what status code the sever is sending back upon the page request is fairly straight forward, especially when using some of the may tools available on the internet. A couple of my favorite tools include:
Firefox Live HTTP Headers Add-On
Although I just wrote the obituary for my personal Firefox usage, I still love this little tool. So, I’m not sure I’ll be able to peel completely away from Firefox. The plugin makes it easy to view the status code of any URL you are currently on. Once installed, simply right click on the current page. Instead of clicking ‘View Page Source’ select ‘View Page Info’. You will now see the page info pop up, only now it has an additional ‘Headers’ tab on the far right. When selected, this options displays the Request and Response Headers. In the ‘Response’ section you will see the status code from the server.
Next- HTTP Headers and Status Codes Part II: I know insomnia is not cured by one article, albeit brilliant and informative, so Part II will go over another great tool for identifying status codes. Then I’ll share what these codes mean and share a couple of my favorite infographics that clarify their meaning, so you’ll know what to look for as you find these codes.