In a Google Webmaster Central Hangout last week (18th October 2019), a question was put to Google’s John Mueller.
“Wondering if Google checks status codes before anything else, like before rendering content?”
This is a great question to John – in very simple terms do Google care about the status code on your website?
The answer is categorically yes. Google does indeed check the status code of a website page before indexing it, or rendering content.
A 200 “OK” success status code is the standard response for successful HTTP request, and for a page that is working correctly. As such the Google crawler looks for the 200 status code before it does anything else – it tells Google that there may be content on that page that it should index.
Alternatively if a page responds with a status code that suggests an error with page, e.g. a 4xx or 5xx status code, or redirect then this is a signal that Google uses in its decision not to go ahead and start indexing the page.
Given the important of rendering content and indexing it in Google website owners should ensure that their website is giving a correct status code at all times. A website monitoring tool such as StatusCake can be used to alert you if a status code other than the OK “200” is being triggered. So for instance if your website starts responding with a 4xx or 5xx status code you’ll be alerted immediately. Status code monitoring means you can ensure pages on your website which respond with the wrong code are immediately corrected, ensuring your site content doesn’t get ignored by Google leading to a fall in traffic to your website, and thereby revenue.