I recently received repeated notices from Google saying my site has an increase in 403 authorization permission errors. Looking at the chart I see that starting on July 22 the errors are indeed increasing and are now at 1168 errors.

These errors seem to come from Google trying to access directories where there are no index files. There are other things in the directories: images for instance, or other directories. What I don't understand is that the "linked from" pages do not exist. They are always other directories, higher up, that contain either images or other directories too.

For instance access is denied to page www.example.com/exliibris/00/9b/88/

This directory contains some html files but no index.html

This directory contains only other subdirectories and no index.html.

This structure of the directories hasn't changed in years, but suddenly Google started inventing links that don't exist. The whole site is indexed by Atomz and there are no errors at all (or a few that we quickly find and fix).

The files that are in the directory at /00/9b/88/ are all accessible by "Fetch as Google".

Google fetches the html files. Google also shows in the results of the fetch, two other files I didn't ask for:


the home page

These two directories do have index files and they are the ones that are shown.

Now, if, behind the scene, Google just goes up the hierarchy and looks for index files in all directories including in /00/9b/ and in /00/, that is fine, but when there isn't one, it shouldn't report an error.

What can I do to stop getting these 403 authorization permission errors that don't mean anything, and don't correspond to any real links?

1 Answer 1


It seems the issue is that these directories were viewable by Google at some point. I know this because I can see such directory listings in Google's cache. You must have changed the configuration of your server, at some point, to deny access to these directory listings.

If you do want to deny access to the directories, then just wait and the problem will disappear. Google still thinks these directories are linked to because they they are all linking to their parent and child directories. Once Google has had time to crawl the directory pages again and see they are 403, the inter-linking will disappear and soon they will not be listed in Webmaster Tools.

Otherwise, you can re-configure your server to make these pages accessible to Google again. There shouldn't be a detrimental effect either way, so long as your pages are indexed or linked to somewhere on your website.

  • You are correct. They were obviously accessible and aren't anymore. I have contacted the hosting company asking if they changed the configuration of the server recently. If they have, that will explain the problem. I'll get back when they answer. Aug 18, 2013 at 9:58
  • The answer is yes, there was a recent configuration change to Apache on the server. So that's it. There's nothing to do but wait for the errors to disappear. Thanks. Aug 20, 2013 at 11:39

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