Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make the strongest impact.
This holds true in SEO, too.
It’s easy to get caught up in complex link building strategies and fancy tools that boast all the bells and whistles.
But you don’t need to invest tons of time, or even spend lots of money, to give your rankings a nice healthy boost.
In fact, what I’m about to show you won’t even cost you a cent.
Check this out:
It’s called the HTTP Header Status Checker.
Yeah, I know. Doesn’t look like much, does it?
It’s not sleek. Nor sexy. Nor flashy.
But as the saying goes: You can’t judge a book by its cover …
… because this free lil’ tool can do incredible things for improving your SEO ranking!
And today I’m going to show you how to use it to its fullest potential.
3 Ways to Use Our HTTP Header Status Checker to Unearth an SEO Gold Mine
1. Find New Link Building Opportunities
We all know how hard it is to convince “big name” sites to link to us “small fries.”
(Even guest posting isn’t as easy or practical as it used to be.)
But what if there were a way you could give the “top dogs” a one-two punch of massive value?
It’s simple, really. You only need to do three things:
- Find pages they’re currently linking to that no longer exist,
- Let them know about it,
- Then offer them an alternative piece of killer content (yours, of course) that they’ll jump at the opportunity to link to.
Sounds like a winning strategy, no?
Here’s how to do it:
Find Broken URLs Using the Free HTTP Header Status Checker
First, you need to find broken links. That’s where the HTTP Header Status Checker (HHSC) comes into play.
Use the HHSC to search a site or page for broken URLs:
What are you looking for exactly?
In a nutshell, 4xx errors.
4xx errors are a group of status codes that mainly show up when a client request is denied. The most common 4xx error you’ll come across is the 404 Not Found …
… but there are other common 4xx errors that’ll also work with this strategy.
Once you find an error, copy down its URL. You’ll need it for the next step.
For example, let’s pretend that the Free Backlink Checker is returning a 4xx error.
You’d copy the following URL: https://monitorbacklinks.com/seo-tools/free-backlink-checker.
Find Sites Currently Linking to the Broken URL
Now, you want to find sites and pages that are currently linking to that broken URL. You’ll do this by using the Free Backlink Checker.
Search the domain name of the site where you found the broken URL …
… and export the results to CSV and open them with the spreadsheet program of your choice:
Your next step is to find all of the pages currently linking to the broken URL.
Here’s the easiest and quickest way to do that:
Use the Sort functionality of your spreadsheet software to sort the URL To column alphabetically. Then, find the pages linking to the broken URL.
Then, make a list of the pages and sites that are currently linking to the broken URL. You’ll need this later.
Create a Piece of Killer Content Based on the Broken URL Subject
Next, you’re going to create a killer piece of content that’s based on the subject of the broken URL.
For example, let’s say you have a paleo diet-based blog and you found a broken URL opportunity for “paleo diet steps.”
You’d then produce an insanely valuable piece of content by searching Google for your target keyword and reviewing the top 10 results.
The goal is to find 10 valuable and relevant resources to form the basis for your own article.
To create an article that’ll be more valuable and engaging than any of the articles currently ranking on the first page. You’ll do this by writing a post that’s more:
The most beneficial way to create content that meets the above qualifications? Use the Skyscraper Method.
Ask the Site Owner for a Link Back to Your Site
Finally, it’s time to reach out to the sites currently linking to the broken URL.
First things first, you need to find out how to contact them. This could be as simple as looking at the contact or about page on their site …
… but it’s more likely that you’ll need to do a bit of detective work.
Your goal is to find the best point of contact for the site. (In most cases, the site’s owner.)
Here’s a resource that shows you 12 ways to find almost any email address within minutes.
Once you have a good email address, your next step is to write an email that does two things:
- Tells the person about the 4xx error.
- Promotes your new and improved post for them to link to.
That’s it. Nothing complicated. As a matter of fact, keep this email as short and sweet as possible.
Here’s a template to help you do that:
Hit send and wait for a response. You’ll be surprised by the number of positive responses (and quality backlinks) you’ll receive.
Now, you might be asking:
What if they still don’t link to my site?
Worst case scenario, you have a new piece of high-quality content that you can rank in the SERPs for and still offer to other sites currently linking to broken URLs.
It’s a win-win strategy.
2. Regain Lost PageRank Juice
While we’re on the subject …
… when was the last time you checked your own site for any 4xx errors?
(Remember how to find them? Just search a page on your site using our free HTTP Header Status Checker!)
Here’s why I ask:
4xx errors are very bad for your site for two reasons:
1. They give zero PageRank—zilch, nada—to your site (no matter how many authority backlinks it has).
2. They turn visitors away, who’ll most likely never visit again (and will visit one of your competitors’ sites instead).
To prevent those two problems, make sure all visitors and bots are redirected to a page that’s relevant to the page with the error.
For example, pretend you had a meat-based recipes page on your paleo diet site that you deleted because your site now focuses on the pegan diet (yep, that’s a real thing).
You would use a 301 redirect (more on this in a sec) to redirect visitors from the deleted page to your “Paleo Diet Recipes” category page instead.
Keep PageRank Flowing with a 301 Redirect
You’d use a huh? to do a what now?!
Here, let me explain it a bit more:
A 301 redirect is a popular (and effective) way to both keep PageRank flowing through your site and help keep visitors from leaving and going somewhere else.
Let’s say your meat-based recipes page was pretty popular, and had several high authority sites linking to it. If you were to just delete the page, all of that authority would stop coming to your site.
As a result, your rankings will drop.
But if instead you use a 301 redirect to send visitors to another relevant page, like your “Paleo Diet Recipes” category page, all of that authority will pass to the new page (and remain tied to your site).
So your SEO efforts continue operating smoothly and your visitors stay happy.
How to Quickly and Easily Set Up a Redirect On WordPress
Now, I’m gonna show you how easy it is to set up a redirect using the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress.
1.) Click on Add New under Plugins from your WP Dashboard:
2.) Type “Redirection” in the search box (1). Results will automatically show and the Redirection plugin should be the first result (2):
3.) Click on the Install Now button:
4.) Then, click the Activate button:
5.) Access Redirection in WordPress via Tools → Redirection:
6.) Now type in the URL of the page that visitors will be redirected from (Source), followed by the URL of the page they’ll be redirected to (Target). Then, click the Add Redirect button:
7.) You’ll notice the redirect has been added. Make sure it says 301, not 302 (I’ll tell you why in a sec):
8.) Test it out by typing in the URL of the redirected page. If it worked, you’ll be taken to the new target page:
That’s all there is to it!
Why You Should Never Use a 302 Redirect
These days, 301 and 302 redirects both pass full PageRank to the target redirected page. (This wasn’t always the case.)
So why do I still recommend not using a 302 redirect?
Because experts still aren’t sure if Google treats 302 redirects equally.
And when in doubt, stick with the sure bet.
Besides, 302 redirects remain a web standard (used by other search engines). And that standard is that they don’t pass any ranking juice to the target redirect page.
So while it’s theoretically safe to use both (in Google’s eyes, at least), I recommend sticking with 301.
I’ll Say It Again … Make Sure the Site Is Relevant
Here’s what happens if you set up either a 301 or 302 redirect to an irrelevant page:
You get zero PageRank juice from the redirect.
As a matter of fact, Google treats redirects to irrelevant pages as soft 404s.
I can’t stress this enough:
Always, always send redirected traffic to a relevant page.
3. Find and Fix Internal Server Errors
Let’s pretend you’re using the HHSC to check a page on your site and you run into this:
What’s that, you ask?
It’s called an internal server error … and it sucks.
Internal server errors are 5xx errors that indicate a problem with your server and block access to your site for both humans and bots.
Which means Google can’t access it (which is a huge problem).
Google Won’t Rank a Page High That’s Unreliable
Here’s the thing:
Google won’t list sites on the first page that are unreliable—no matter how good the content is.
You can have the most incredible article ever on “aardvark mating habits” and it still won’t rank anywhere close to the first page if Google can’t regularly access your site.
They absolutely will not send traffic to unreliable sites.
The Different Reasons for 5xx Errors
So, the next question is:
What types of 5xx errors are there, and how do you stop them?
There are six main types of 5xx errors (ranging from 500-505). And each one represents its own specific error.
But they do have one thing in common:
They’re all the result of the server failing to fulfill a request.
Your first step in correcting a 5xx server error is to find the specific error code and research possible solutions ASAP.
And that’s where things get a bit tricky …
While there are six different types of 5xx errors, there could be 1,001 different reasons why the error occurred.
With that in mind, here’s my recommendation for fixing server errors:
Best Way to Find the Exact Issue Causing the 5xx Error
First step is to reach out to your website host and explain to them the problem:
If possible, take a screenshot of the error and have it ready to show them:
The experts should take over from there.
Usually, one of two things will happen:
- They’ll be able to fix the problem on their end or tell you how to fix it from your end.
- They’ll refer you to a specialist (like a PHP specialist) who’ll need to research the issue further.
The biggest thing is to work with a site host you trust, trust the expert you’re working with and trust the process.
They’re usually able to find and fix the error fast.
I just showed you three simple ways to use the free HTTP Header Status Checker to improve your SEO.
Now, it’s time to put what you learned into practice!
Start by checking the HTTP header status of your site and pages first.
Do you see any errors? If so, fix them as soon as possible.
If not, then start searching for backlink building opportunities by finding 4xx errors on relevant sites.
Stay persistent. Check your own site (for errors) and other niche-relevant sites (for opportunities) on a monthly basis and I’m confident you’ll see positive results.