Like 4XX Errors, 5XX Errors come in a range of forms. Essentially they mean that the server failed to fulfil a request.
An error that starts with a 5 indicates that the server is aware that it encountered an error or is incapable of performing the request.
5XX Errors come in a range of forms, such as 500 Internal Server Error, 502 Bad Gateway, 503 Service Unavailable, and 504 Gateway Timeout. There are also a number of other 5XX Server Errors which can be seen on the full Wikipedia List.
All sorts of 5XX errors are bad for user experience, and should therefore be fixed as soon as possible. Unlike 4XX Errors, rixing a 5XX error can often be technical, and requires help from the development team or your web hosting company.
Are 5XX Errors bad for SEO?
The short answer is yes. For a site to be healthy and rank well, it pays to minimise the number of 5XX errors it generates.
With a 500 – Internal Server Error, access to your website is affected for both human visitors and bots (such as the crawlers that search engines use). Because search engines prefer sites that are well maintained (and more importantly, accessible), you’ll want to investigate 500 status codes and get them fixed as soon as possible.
On the other hand, 503 – Service Unavailable means that the service is currently unavailable and should be retried again later. This applies to both humans and bots. Essentially a 503 error says “come back and try again later” because the site is expected to be down for just a short period of time.
Need help explaining this to your boss, or web developer?
Use our concise explanation below to explain this issue via email:
Our website has a few links that are resulting in the user seeing a 5XX type error page. This can mean there are server issues, but I need to spend a bit of time looking into it specifically.
If I can’t fix this myself (or it doesn’t fix itself on it’s own in a few hours), then I’ll need to talk to our tech team or web developer. It’s one of the more technical issues that I’ve noticed!