Gone. That’s what it means. No, seriously — it’s called the 410 Gone Error; gone being the keyword. You might have run into one while browsing the internet and grew frustrated when Google (or another search engine) couldn’t retrieve what you were looking for. When that happens, it serves an error message/code.
Think about how annoying that could be if you were really eager to find a particular piece of information or content, only to be met with a screen of doom. Back then, that’s probably all you saw — a maddening bit of text. However, error messages serve a distinct purpose. And now that you’re all grown up and working in content marketing and SEO, you can be the giver of the message!
This is everything you need to know about HTTP error 410, including what exactly it means, how it compares to error 404, and how to know when to use it on your website.
What Is HTTP Error 410?
Okay, so there is more meaning behind the big bold 410 than I just let on. Yes, it’s a gone error that essentially means that piece of information someone was looking for is no longer there — but let’s push a little further.
Error 410 is an HTTP status code and client-side error that gets triggered when a user or web server requests a resource (like a webpage) that is no longer available. It may also appear as any of the following variations:
- 410 Gone.
- Error 410.
- HTTP Status 410.
A 410 error can be both intentional and unintentional, but it doesn’t just manifest itself out of the blue (though sometimes if it’s a plugin issue, it may seem like that. More on that later). Someone has to manually put it here. But before we dive into the use cases surrounding error messages, let’s step into the user’s shoes for just a moment.
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What Causes Gone Error 410?
If someone is searching your website and is served a 410 gone error message, it will usually be indicative of one or more of the following:
- Pages/resources have been intentionally removed by the site owner.
- Pages/resources have been moved to a new location or renamed.
- Pages/resources were deleted by accident.
- There’s an issue with the server or hosting service.
If this sounds eerily similar to the classic 404 error that many of us are all too familiar with, well, they are comparable!
What’s the Difference Between 410 and 404?
Simply put, a 410 error is less ambiguous than a 404 because it denotes, in most cases, a target resource that’s permanently gone but was once there — i.e., been deleted. On the other hand, error 404 is most often used to indicate that a resource is not available at the requested location. This could be a temporary failure or the result of a mistyped or misspelled URL. In that case, a 404 could be served when a user searches for something that doesn’t — and has never — existed at a particular address.
So, while on paper they both essentially denote a missing asset, 410 is more specific than 404. This is an important consideration when determining which error to serve on your own website, as they each affect SEO and how Google’s crawlers interpret your web pages.
Should You Use a 404 or 410 For Deleted Pages On Your Website?
This comparison raises the question: If you are the website owner and have to serve an error, which should you use? We’ll keep the answer short and sweet since we pretty much answered it above:
- For temporarily missing pages, use 404.
- For pages that are permanently gone and will never come back, or there is no viable substitute to redirect users toward, serve a 410.
How to Fix Error Code 410 On Your Website, Or Avoid It
Serving a 410 status code or even a 404 redirect is an intentional action implemented by a website owner. However, these status codes can and do show up “on their own” sometimes, especially if you’re using a bunch of plugins.
So, if you haven’t set up a 410 error message but you find one popping up anyway, here are a few actions you can take to fix the issue.
410 status code errors can trigger as the result of using website plugins — usually due to compatibility issues or plugins that alter your website’s URL structures. For example, there are many WordPress plugins that can trigger this message. If that’s the case, you’ll need to create a backup of your website and then disable all the plugins to properly diagnose the issue.
Once everything has been disabled, work your way back up the list of plugins, reenabling each one individually until you get the error message again. Once you’ve found the source of the error, you’ll need to determine how integral that plugin is to your website, find a replacement or remove it altogether.
Regularly Check for Broken Links
Broken links are a common server-side reason for the 410 error. Using Google Search Console, it’s important to regularly check your website for broken links to lessen the chances of an unexpected 410 greeting users when they click around on your website.
Repair Your Website’s htaccess File
The htaccess file in WordPress allows you to configure server settings such as redirects, restrictions and more. Modifying this file can, unbeknownst to the modder, inadvertently trigger a 410 status code. Certain servers and plugins can make changes to this file, too, once you’ve authorized them.
If you’re not a coder, accessing this file can be a bit confusing. And if we’re being honest, we’re not programmers, either. We’re marketers. If you’re up for the challenge yourself, you can try accessing and editing your htaccess file yourself. Or, you can ask your web developers for a little help.
Implement Redirects to Other Resources
When you have intentionally removed or renamed a resource on your website where a 410 error would then be placed, you can implement redirects. Redirecting users to the new URL of the target resource they’re looking for can help reduce confusion that’s sometimes brought about by a 410.
Error Code 410 for the SEO Win
Serving an error code 410 will signal to Google’s crawlers that a page no longer exists. This is a pretty important consideration for SEO, as the crawlers will then forgo indexing that particular page and instead continue crawling relevant pages. This can help maintain technical SEO and increase your website’s crawlability.
Custom Error Pages
But wait… there’s more. If you need to implement an error 410 yourself, the good news is that you’ll have full control over the page design. Usually, you’ll see designs for error 404 pages, but you can totally have them for 410’s, too.
Unsurprisingly, the blank white page with Error 410 plastered along the top can feel intimidating and discouraging to searchers who are relying on your website to provide information.
So, if you’ve moved or renamed something on your website, don’t be afraid to get creative with the 410 page! It can even be helpful to include a bit of information that explains why the searcher encounters the error and where they can go to maybe find what they’re after.
Done, Dusted, Deleted
Well, there you have it. Hopefully, now you’re all the wiser about error status codes, particularly code 410. And don’t worry, if you still have questions and think you’ll need to bookmark this blog to reference in the future, it will be here. And if it’s not, 410!