When you work with websites, http return codes are one of things which you should understand and have them used correctly. If they are not setup correctly they can end up sending wrong signal to your readers and bots.
You do not want Google to de-index your pages because of wrong http return codes or your readers can stop coming back if they start seeing unwanted error codes.
There are http return codes for every kind of request, even if your page is displayed correctly it has returned a code to show it as a success. A HTTP return code of 200 says the site has been loaded correctly or the request has been completed.
HTTP Return codes for users
There are codes which inform your readers about the activities on your blog and there are codes which are for bots. most of codes which are for bots are transparent for the users.
You might have seen this error code at many places. It tells user that the page they are looking for does not exist but does that mean they should leave your site. No, there are many other reasons to be on your site.
Most of the sites use the generic 404 page, which just tell users that they are not able to find the page. You need to give your users more than that, you need to give reason to stay.
How about adding your best 5 article on the 404 page, if they can’t find what they are looking for at least they can check the best from your blog. If you have a “start here” page, you can consider including it on 404 page. You need to treat it as an opportunity to build a new relationship.
HTTP Return Codes for Bots
It is use to indicate that you have moved the content permanently to a new URL. You should be careful using this code because once bots receive the return code, they will register the new URL and will stop visiting your old URL.
So if you plan to move it for temporary period you should use 302 not 301.
This tells that you have moved your content temporary and they should still looks for original URL only. You can setup an automatic redirect to your temporary page so that your users are unaware of it and get the desired results.
An easy way to do that in WordPress CMS is redirection Plugin. The plugin automatically watch for any URL change on your site and create redirection for it, so you can freely edit any post and URL without worrying about giving bad HTTP return codes to users.
How to use them in Split Testing
With the A/B Split testing you can check which combination should be best for your page. There are many tools available for the split testing but Google Analytics Content Experiment has taken lead by providing a way to test multiple copies simultaneously.
You should create a master copy of your page with an mater URL. This is the URL which you use in all promotions and it will have the final content. You can create a copy of your page and add some variations, give that copy a different URL.
All duplicate pages should contain rel=”canonical” pointing to master copy of your page. This will let google know that the master copy is the one which should be used.
After that it is as easy as pasting some code in your pages and it will start displaying to your readers. You can check the results in your Google Analytics account.
Once you finalized the page you want, you can move it to the master URL and remove all the other pages. But once you remove it you need to take care of the removed URL and a best way to create a 301 redirect to tell that page has permanently moved to your master page.
Isn’t a simple way of doing a split testing..
I have not talked about all of the HTTP return codes, only touched few important ones and their practical uses. Do you think any other codes which are relevant and should be handled properly..