There may be cases when you would like to see what your webpage HTTP headers look like. Why? Well, because they are kind of important. As Wikipedia states, the HTTP headers define what the returned data looks like.
Still you ask, “Why in the world do I care about that?” Ok, I’ll keep going. The main reason I look at the HTTP headers is to find out what the HTTP status code is. The reason the status code is important to me is because this is the code the search engines use for a multitude of things.
Let me give you a little example, and this related to my previous post regarding the sudden drop in Google rankings. As I was doing research into what the problem may be for this particular website, I came across an issue where someone had recently put custom “404 Not Found” error pages up on some of their websites. Everyone knows that custom “404 Not Found” error pages are cool, but what some people don’t know is that if those 404 error pages show a “200 OK” (successful HTTP requests) code, the site may be in big trouble, SEO-wise. The reason for this is because there are going to be many “404 Not Found” error pages on a dynamic website. If you have your custom “404 Not Found” error page showing a “200 OK” response code, the search engines will think that all the instances of this page are duplicate. You know as well as I do, that spells trouble.
What’s worse is if you set your homepage as your “404 Not Found” page. Your homepage is going to return a response code of “200 OK.” That’s not good, because now you have multiple instances of your homepage…all duplicate content.
It’s my opinion that the search engines are smart enough to figure this out. The page (such as your homepage) with the highest Pagerank will prevail. Still, I have some websites that I am working on that have multiple instances of the homepage and they all have Pagerank, which isn’t good, because the duplicates are taking the Pagerank from the real page. Now, again, that’s my opinion.
Here are two tips:
– How to check your HTTP headers – visit this website or just Google “Website header check”
– How to set a particular page as your “404 Not Found” error page in your .htaccess file – Just place this code in the file: “ErrorDocument 404 /404.php” without the quotes. The 404.php file is the actual error page in this case.