Response Codes and Why They’re So Important to Your Dealership

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| Posted on | JTT - SEO, SEO

You’ve recently heard Kelsea and Jay talk about the important role content plays in achieving your SEO goals. Then, Aaron did the same thing in regard to user experience. And, yes, both are very important but none if it makes a difference if neither clients or Google can find it. So, let’s talk about content deliverability.

If you’re doing it right, your website is full of great content. Content that gets people excited about buying cars and vehicle description pages (or “VDP”) that include vital information about the specific vehicles on your lot. Your worst nightmare is a potential customer trying to reach a VDP and they can’t, resulting in probable loss of a sale.

So how can we detect and troubleshoot these issues?

In most cases, that customer would have reached that VDP as a result of a Google Search – then by clicking a link. So, what you’ll want to do is navigate to the desired page, to simulate their experience. Did you reach it without any issue? If so, that’s good. That means potential customers are likely to reach it as well. Now, let’s take a look behind the scenes.

What is a 200 Code?
Successfully reaching a desired page generates what we call a 200 Response Code. As a developer, the Response Code is what I see, and it’s what clues me in on any issues that may need to be fixed

But what if you didn’t arrive at the page you wanted? Clearly, there’s an issue, and one that a potential customer might experience as well.

What is a 302 Code?
Maybe you ended up on a general page, like a Search Results Page or a Home Page. This means you were redirected. A redirect corresponds with a 302 code which, on the back-end, means that a redirect rule was set in place so that anyone attempting to reach the page in question would be sent to where you ended up. Why would this happen? For lots of reasons. Maybe the desired page was for a vehicle that was recently sold, so the page has been removed from the site. Maybe it contained outdated information, and has been set up so that users arrive at an updated resource. Or maybe there’s a genuine issue. If that’s the case, you need to address the issue with whoever’s in charge of managing your website.

What is a 404 Code?
Maybe you ended up on a directory, or a page telling you that the desired page could not be found. This corresponds with a 404 Error Code, and means that the URL didn’t match the URL’s that were registered for the site. In many cases, this comes down to simple spelling error. So, what do you need to do? First, check the URL as it appears within the navigation bar. If it’s incorrect, you need to rule out your own user error first…then type better. But if you typed it directly or simply clicked a link or button, a larger issue could be generating that 404 code. Again, talk to whomever is in charge of your website to get this resolved.

What is a 500 Code?
When it comes to issues that you need to address with your website administrator, a 500 response code ranks pretty high. A 500 code is likely to tell you something to the effect of “Internal Error” or “Internal Server Error”. This means there’s a serious problem within the code that generates your website. That’s a BIG red flag, and you need to get that checked out immediately.

Remember, online research for prospective car buyers isn’t a phase or a fad. And if 2020 has shown us anything, your dealership’s online presence is more important than ever. Needless to say, anytime someone tries to visit your website (or a particular page) and can’t access it, it’s a loss for your business. The harder you make it for them to shop on their time, and on their terms, the more likely they are to buy from your competitors.

Remember…a healthy website, means happy customers.

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