Forbidden (403) URL received search traffic

This means that the URL in question returns a HTTP status of 403 (Forbidden), yet received organic search traffic, per the connected Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.

Why is this important?

If a URL returns a status of 403 (Forbidden), this means that the content is not accessible. If search engine users are ending up on 403 pages, they would receive an extremely unsatisfactory result, which offers a very poor user experience and reflects poorly on the brand.

What does the Hint check?

This Hint will trigger for any internal URL which recorded some clicks in Search Analytics, and/or some visits in Google Analytics, where the URL returns a HTTP status of 403 (Forbidden)

This data was collected from Google Search Console and Google Analytics, via API, for the connected Property/View, and for the specified date range.

Examples that trigger this Hint:

Consider the URL: https://example.com/page-a, which has registered some search traffic.

The Hint would trigger for this URL if it had a 403 (Forbidden) header response:

HTTP/... 403 Forbidden

...

How do you resolve this issue?

First, a couple of caveats:

  1. It is worth remembering that the traffic data collected is historical, yet the crawl was done in real time - so it might be the case that this URL was previously crawlable, and is now 403 (Forbidden).
  2. One other thing to note is that the 403 (Forbidden) response MIGHT NOT be the same response given to a search engine crawler. Sometimes, servers employ over-zealous firewalls or 'DDoS protection services', that detect crawling activity and treat it as a DDoS attack, which can lead to 403 responses. So it is worth checking the source of the 403 before taking action.

Assuming neither of these things are at play, then the reality is that you have an inaccessible page which is receiving search traffic - which is clearly not a good thing for site visitors. Ensure that all pages return a HTTP status code of 200 (OK) if they are designed to be accessible via search engine results.

Further Reading

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