How does Google treat 404 and 410 status codes?

If you’re a webmaster who is interested in how Google crawls the web and how it deals with various status codes, you’ll probably been interested to hear what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say in his new webmaster help video.

Cutts discusses 404 and 410 status codes in most detail. Technically both mean “page not found”, but Google’s head of search spam outlines the nuances of each code and how the Googlebot views each error independently.

For business owners who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, Cutts first outlines the difference between a 404 and a 410 status code:

“So 404 vs. 410 refers to an HTTP status code, so whenever the browser or Googlebot asks for a page, the Web server sends back a status code – 200 might mean everything went totally fine, 404 means page not found, 410 typically means gone, as in the page is not found and we do not expect it to come back,” said Cutts.

“So 410 has a little more of connotation that the page is permanently gone.”

Cutts indicated that Googlebots do treat 404s and 410s differently, but that webmasters and digital marketers “shouldn’t worry about it”.

“If a page is gone and you think it’s temporary, go ahead and use a 404,” he said.

“If the page is gone and you know no other page that should substitute for it, you don’t have anywhere else that you should point to, and you know that that page is going to be gone and never come back, then go ahead and serve a 410.”

Cutts confirmed that Google is working hard to design a crawling system that is robust enough so that, if a site goes down or you get hacked, they make sure that they can still find good, relevant content wherever it is available.

Check out the full Google Webmaster help video here.

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