There are 10 types of 5xx status codes. The most common are 500 (Internal service error), 502 (Bad gateway), and 503 (Service unavailable). For high rankings and correct website indexation, your sitemap should contain URLs returning the 200 (OK) response code.
If you want to learn how HTTP status codes and errors affect Google Search, you may read this article.
What Triggers This Issue?
The HTTP status code 500 is a generic error. It means that the server failed to fulfill the request due to some unexpected problems. They come from the user’s side or from the server.
A 503 error indicates some temporary issues. Unlike other 5xx HTTP codes, a 503 shows that the website is alive but cannot be reached at that very moment.
A 502 error indicates a communication glitch between the gateway and the server. It means that your server, while acting as a proxy, received a failed response from a hosting server.
How To Check the Issue
To check your XML sitemap for any errors, including 5xx ones, you can use some third-party programs or audit tools like Screaming Frog. All you have to do is find your sitemap.xml file, upload it in the software’s dialogue window, and click on “OK.” The program will find “dirt” on your sitemap.
Sitechecker is an online service designed to assist you in monitoring such issues. After executing an audit, you will be provided with a dedicated section focused on XML sitemap problems, allowing you to effortlessly track 5xx server errors within XML sitemaps.
Why Is This Important?
The main problem here is that 5xx URLs in the sitemap cannot be crawled by search engines. Yet, it may result in indexation issues or complete ignoring of the sitemap by Google. The 5xx status code can have an immediate negative impact on the website’s rankings.
If the downtime lasts longer, more serious issues may occur. The search engines might start to worry about the website if a 503 has been given for several days instead of an hour. Googlebot may think that the webpage doesn’t exist anymore and that it’s time to remove it. This video by Google Search Central will help you understand the search engine’s logic when it encounters the 503 status code.
How To Fix the Issue
Here are some general pieces of advice if the issue comes from the user’s side:
If the 5xx error keeps arising, the issue may lay in damaged code on your website. You can find and disable it, then check if the sitemap is clean.
If the root of the problem lies in some service issues, you should ask your hosting provider for help. In case of server overloading, it is better to find a server that can handle a huge number of requests.
Keep your site healthy, detect all pages in sitemap that return 5xx status code!
To detect not only the issue but other kind of site level and page level problems, just make the full site audit.