Let's say I have a directory that has a 403 forbidden error for all of the content in it, however a few of the images in its subdirectories return a normal 200 status. Will this fact affect my ranking?

For example:

  • test.com/system/ returns 403 for all files
  • test.com/system/pie/ returns 403 for all files
  • test.com/system/pie/image.png does not return 403, and this image is embedded on publicly accessible page

This sort of pattern repeats for about 10 different images. This directory is like a secret "system", however all of the content on the main site is still accessible to everyone from the public.

1 Answer 1


If you're returning a 403 forbidden error for those directories, why not just prevent search engines from following links to these locations and assigning NOINDEX?

You can still allow exceptions to this by allowing sub directories or images to be indexed if they are linked to from other pages that are indexed.

What rankings are you concerned about? test.com (as per your example) will be fine as there is nothing of any value to a search engine that they wish to index returning errors or vice versa.

  • I don't want to assign a NOINDEX due to the fact that the rest of the files in the directory are private. I don't want anybody else accessing them, so I just placed a 403 forbidden error for everyone except for my IP. Would this be fine?
    – Gkhan14
    Jul 2, 2013 at 18:10
  • I'm not entirely sure I follow but a NOINDEX would be saying "this is private content and I don't want a search engine or visitors to see it". It's purely just to eradicate any risk, if no search engines are following links to these locations and being served with a 403, then there is no issue anyway (in terms of rankings). It isn't going to affect rankings of pages in test.com though as these are indexed, crawlable and pose no issue.
    – zigojacko
    Jul 3, 2013 at 8:12

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