Quickguides: What Does The Status Code 303 Mean?

01 Sep, 2020

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Fortunately for those of us who don’t like spending hours looking at black screens, these days Digital Marketing doesn’t require expert knowledge of coding. But knowing which of the key HTTP status codes from the 301,302 and 303 codes to use for redirects can make a big difference to SEO and page rankings. To help you build up this knowledge and avoid confusion, here is an in-depth explanation of the HTTP 303 status code, when not to use it, and some of its most common functions. 

HTTP 303 Status Codes and 3XX status codes 

The best way to understand what HTTP Status Code 303 code is and how it’s used is first to understand the 3XX series of HTTP status codes and how they are used. These codes are commonly known as the redirection codes. Redirection serves an important purpose for Digital Marketing especially when it comes to holding onto and transferring rankings and page authority that previous pages have built up. Perhaps a site owner has sold their old address and bought a new one or they are transferring their website from HTTP to HTTPS, either way, the owner needs to put out signals to users and search engines that any old listings for the old pages such as those found in the results of search engines automatically redirect the user to the new pages. 

For example A visitor who may visit your site through a page they have found on Google Whatare303codes.com but since Google added this page to its results (indexed it) the page's URL has changed to  www.whatisa303code.com. Now in this situation, 301 or 302 redirects would be used, if the site owner has no plan to go back to the old URL (whatare303codes) then they will use a 301 permanent redirect to redirect all of that page authority to the new address, whereas if they plan to return the website to old address then they will use a 302 temporary redirect, this will point the traffic in this direction but won’t take away all the page authority from the old page. If you are researching 303 status code because you are looking to do these kinds of redirects you actually need to use the 301 or 302 status codes, depending on whether your changes are permanent or temporary.

Why HTTP 303 codes are different from 301 302 codes

If you were planning on redirecting pages on your website then you do not need to use the 303 code for your redirects. In fact most Digital Marketers will never need to use 303 codes for these kinds of activities. So you might ask what are 303 status codes for? It’s important to remember that although these codes are used for SEO and site redirection, the whole coding system was not just created for redirects. 

Https status codes are the language that servers and our browser use to communicate and make the internet work. So when we create these redirects we are telling the server what to show Googlebot or a user accessing our website through their browser. The 301 and 302 redirects are taking the user to this new page by telling them or Google you want this page but he's now been moved to here. The 303 status codes on other hand are responding to the request by saying you are asking for this page or element but we don’t have this but here is something similar or linked.

When Not To Use The 303 Status Code

Compared to the 301 and 302 codes most Digital marketers will not need to use 303 codes because they do not offer the same utility for protecting Google rankings. They aren’t good for transferring over page rank, (this is a key reason why the 301 code is used for permanent redirects) and unlike the 301 and 302 codes the message to the client is not pointing the page in the direction of an equivalent, as we have seen earlier they point to something similar. It’s sort of like when you ask for Sprite in a restaurant and they offer you 7-up, it’s similar but it’s not the same and Google isn't interested in indexing results that are similar to what it is looking for Googlebot wants the real thing. This is why it is not used for SEO because in SEO we are looking to show Google that we have the perfect match to what the users is looking for.

So When Will I Need HTTP 303 codes?

We have established that 303 codes are not used for redirects for SEO purposes. So what are they for? A common use of 303 redirects is for preventing visitors from re-submitting from dater when using the back button on the browser. This can be important for preventing confusion from duplicate transactions, and server overloads from too many requests.  

Let's focus on getting enough visitors to your site first before we worry about those kinds of problems! We hope this article has given you a better understanding of 303 status codes and its more often used siblings

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