Matt Cutts Explains How Google Treats 404 and 410 Status Codes

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Matt Cutts Explains How Google Treats 404 and 410 Status Codes

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about website status codes in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:

Does Google do anything different when encountering a 404 versus a 410?

First of all, Matt explains what a 404 and a 410 is. These refer to HTTP status codes; whenever a browser or Googlebot asks for a page, the website sends back a status code.

For example, a status code of 200 means everything is fine, whereas a status code of 404 means the page was not found. And then there’s a 410, which means the page is permanently gone.

Matt says Google does treat 404’s and 410’s a little differently, but for the most part you shouldn’t worry about it.

Matt goes on to explain how these types of status codes are treated when crawled by Googlebot. If Google crawls a page and sees a 404, they protect the page for 24 hours in the crawling system in case the 404 was unintentional.

If Google crawls a page and sees a 410, it’s assumed that status code is intentional because a webmaster would have had to manually go in and input the 410 code to indicate the page is gone. Rather than protecting a page with a 410, it’s treated as an error.

Matt says Google still may go back the page is truly gone, but for the most part if you know the page is gone and not coming back it’s ok to serve a 410. If a page is gone, but may be coming back, it’s ok to serve a 404.

Those are the basic differences, and Matt emphasizes a second time not to worry about them too much.

To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, please see the video below:

Matt Southern
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • Greg D.

    Google is always changing they way they do everything. Matt Cutts takes a lot of heat from SEO’s but I think he helpful.

  • Sunday

    I guess what is most important in this article is the fact that Matt Cutts has differentiated between 404 and 410 error pages. Its necessary for clarity as many webmasters never know how the search engines treats any of these. I hope we should not be “worried” as Matt has advised 😉


  • Norm Miller

    There is a difference between protecting the page for 24 hours and holding on to it. While they may protect the page for 25 hours, they hold on to it in their index much longer. Google has indexed old pages of our sites that have old information, say an old address. I would expect these pages to be removed from Google’s index, but they are not. The probability that the old pages will get served up in the search results may change after 24 hours, but the page stays in the cache for a very long time.

  • Karan Rawat

    wow, never thought it works like this, now i get it, 404 error means the page you are trying to load is not found and 410 error means the page is you are looking for, is gone permanently.

  • Rajan Kumar

    It is well said by Matt Cutts, but he still left a question which is, “what would be happen after 24 hours that page is protected by Google bots”. Are Google bots will come again to protect that page for next 24 hours, and will this process be continued.

    • Ashutosh Rai

      It depends bots can follow it again depending upon the signals. But it shouldn’t be any case of serious worry for you. Assuming a webmaster is following best webmaster practices. And Yes they will remove the 404 page data impact on SERP etc. after 24 hours till they re-discover it from some path that it has gone alive again just to dupe bots… in my best understanding. Hope it helps!