What is 5XX Status Code?
A 5XX error is a general terminology for HTTP status codes which start with the number ‘5’. Examples include 500, 503 and 508. This error is reported by the browser when something has gone wrong at the server end but it does not know what exactly is the reason.
Although, there are many potential 5XX errors the ones below is what most webmasters encounter frequently.
500 – Internal Server Error – This error is reported when the web server encounters an unexpected condition. This prevents it from responding to a browser request.
502 – Bad Gateway – The server responds with this status code when it receives an invalid response from the server while trying to process a request.
503 – Service Unavailable – The 5XX error is common and is typically thrown when the server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server.
504 – Gateway Timeout – This error is reported when a gateway or proxy does not receive a timely response from the server.
Why fix the 5XX status code?
When your server faces an error your pages show up bland on the browser with no valuable information provided to the user.
This can lead to critical issues when left alone for a while.
Dip in traffic and revenue – When this happens on your revenue generating pages you will see a dip in your income as the page itself is not accessible to the user.
Loss of SEO ranking – When Google sees that a certain page is a 5XX error for an extended period of time it will start demoting the page from its index. This means loss of rankings and traffic you have built for months and years.
Bad User experience – When you link to 5XX errors pages from other pages on your site your users might end up hitting a dead wall. This results in bad user experience for people who land up even on a 200 OK page.
How to check pages which have a 5XX error?
To find a list of 5XX errors on your site you need to first verify your site using Google search console. Once done you have to click on the crawl error report under the “Crawl” section in the sidebar. You should see all 5XX errors reported under “server errors” tab. The graph shows the trend of 5XX errors which in the case below is alarming.
Note that the server errors reported to the Google Mobile bot might be different from the ones on the desktop. You will need to fix errors reported on each of these tab sections.
How to fix 5XX error pages?
There are 2 types of 5XX errors. One is temporary and the other is permanent. Temporary 5XX errors occur due to temporary outages of the server and the page is usually back up with a browser refresh.
On the other hand, permanent 5XX errors need to be fixed through troubleshooting.
If you are using a popular CMS like WordPress, Joomla, Magento and then a server error is most likely to happen for three reasons. Each of which can be easily fixed.
- When you install plugins and themes which are incompatible with the current version there might be a conflict in your server which shows up as 5XX error. The best workaround is to deactivate and uninstall the plugin immediately. If you have a complete back up of your site then revert your site to its previous version.
- Bad CMS installations can also lead to 5XX errors. You must follow the best server practices prescribed by your CMS. Check for CMS-Server compatibility.
- If your server permissions for important files are not set correctly your server might throw up an error. All the files a server needs to access to process a command should be under 0755 or (-rwxr-xr-x) permission settings.
If you are using a custom CMS or none of the above items worked for you on your CMS then you must employ one of the methods below.
- Note error logs – Your server makes a list of all error logs. If you see a rise in 5XX errors on your site you should note the error logs reported during the same period.
- Errors in .HTACCESS file – Corrupt .HTACCESS files can lead to 5XX errors. If you have made any recent changes to this file you will have to revert the changes and upload a more appropriate file.
- Errors in scripts/code – Errors in scripts can also lead to rising in 5XX errors. To get to the bottom of the issue you will need to map out your site code changes to the rise in 5XX errors. Once you map this you can check which of these code changes is the real culprit.
- Contact your server administrator – There can be issues which you need the help of your server administrator or web host. This could be server setting best practices which you are not following or incompatibility of the server with your CMS or some problem with your web host.
To test if your 5XX pages are up and running use httpstatus.io. A tool which bulk checks URLs for their HTTP status.
Mark them as fixed
Once you have fixed your 5XX errors you can mark them as fixed to clear your errors list. Search console gives you this option.
To do so you have to visit the server errors section in crawl errors report and click the checkboxes of URLs you have fixed. Click on “Mark as fixed”. Once done you can these URLs get cleared from the list.