SEO Basics: 500 Errors Explained in Plain English

November 29, 2017 7:30 am  |   Published by

In our last post, we discussed how the most common errors seen by web users are 404 not found, 500 server errors, and 301 redirects. In today’s post, we will be discussing 500 errors and what causes them. We will also touch briefly on how to fix and prevent them from happening.

What is a 500 server error?

A 500 error is a generic status provided back to the web browser.  The server sends a message to the web browser alerting the user to the issue. It is then up to the owner of the site to find out what is wrong and fix it.  The error could be numerous things happening to cause the issue or a single major cause. More often than not the issues related to plugins or updates to a blogging platform.

Sometimes the issue could be a brief hiccup when the server or software on the server is being updated. If you hit refresh sometimes the issues will no longer be a problem. If the problem continues the best thing you can do is notify the site owner that you are experiencing 500 errors when you try to access their site.

How to correct 500 errors

If you are the owner of the site and have limited knowledge of your website you will need to work with your web developer and host to fix the problem. If you are more advanced take a look at what has happened on the server recently.

Check Log Files and Update Notices

Log files can help tell you this or system like WordPress will provide you with info on automatic updates installed the next time you log in. Creating regularly scheduled backups of your site can help you roll back if there is a problem.

Contact Your Host

Sometimes it might not be anything with your software and instead is caused by the server itself. Contact your hosting provider to ensure that the server your website is sitting on is not the root of the problem.

They will be able to provide you with information as to what might be causing it at the software level also. The host can also provide you with information if the issue happens to be with communication between the file servers and the database servers they are running.

Revert to a Backup

Revert your site to a recent backup to get your site running again while you figure out the issues. If it is not something you have done to cause the issue then it will allow a system or plugin to provide an updated fix to install.

Deactivate or Uninstall Broken or Old Plugins

Making sure your blog is clean of old and broken plugins can help keep your site up and running. Often times old plugins that have not been updated or support can cause conflicts with system updates and other newer plugins. If you are no longer using a plugin make sure you deactivate them. If you have no intention of ever using them again delete the files from your server.

Last Resort: Delete and Reinstall 

As a last resort work with your web developer or you can wipe the server clean of all files after making a backup. Once the files have been deleted re-upload and install the files. Once that is set up add in all your theme files and old uploads. Slowly adding the plugins back in one at a time until the site breaks again. Sometimes it might not break at all.


Contact your hosting provider first to see if they can help provide insights. Then contact your web developer or system admin. If you are those things then revert to a backup of the site before starting from scratch. In my experience nine times out of ten the issues is with a plugin, database communication error, or the web host is having issues.

If you are still having issues. Contact us and we would be more than happy to help diagnose and fix the issues.

Want more blogging and SEO Basics? Check out our ever-growing SEO Basics resource section.

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Adam Nutting

Adam Nutting is an avid hiker, adventurer, and Eagle Scout. He has over 10 years of web design, development, social media and digital marketing experience. He shares his adventures on his site and blogs about social media and blogging here on Epic Social.

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