Permanent Redirect = 301,
Temporary Redirect = 302.
What does a 301 redirect do?
A 301 redirect serves as a status code informing both search engines and users that a page has undergone a permanent move, ensuring they are directed to the appropriate new page. This permanent move signifies that the content of the original page has been relocated indefinitely. Users are redirected to a new page, which has now replaced the old one.
The primary purpose of a 301 redirect is to modify the URL of a page as it appears in search engine results. If you have invested time and effort in creating a website or establishing an online store, it is crucial to pay close attention to its impact on your site.
You can think of a 301 redirect as analogous to a Change of Address form that one would fill out with the Postal Service when moving to a new physical address. In a similar fashion, web traffic is rerouted from the old URL to the new URL.
The advantage of using a 301 redirect is that you retain all the hard-earned SEO value and link equity that your old URL had garnered, as it gets transferred to the new URL.
Now, what about a 302 redirect?
In contrast to the permanent nature of a 301 redirect, a 302 redirect represents a temporary change that redirects users and search engines to the desired new location for a limited period. The 302 redirects will be in effect until it is removed. It may appear as a “302 found” (HTTP 1.1) or “moved temporarily” (HTTP 1.0) status.
However, choosing a 302 redirect when a 301 redirect is more appropriate can lead to issues when search engines attempt to determine which page holds a higher value. The search engine may list only one version of the page in its search results, potentially leading to the wrong page being displayed. This problem can escalate over time as a chain of redirects accumulates on older sites.
What is the significance of the numbers 301 and 302?
These numbers correspond to HTTP status codes, which fall into five classes in the official registry. The initial digit of each status code indicates its response class. When a code starts with the digit three, it indicates that it belongs to the redirect class.
Why are status codes important?
These codes play a crucial role in preserving your “link juice,” a term used to describe the search engine equity accumulated for a specific URL. When you need to inform search engine crawlers about a site or page relocation, proper redirection is essential to retain the link juice and maintain search engine rankings and link power. Failing to do so risks losing the link juice and starting anew, potentially competing against your old page.
A properly executed URL redirect ensures the maintenance of link juice and domain authority during the transition to a new page, preventing users from encountering broken links, 404 not found pages or errors. On the other hand, a 302 redirect does not pass the link juice or retain domain authority for the new location. It merely redirects users to the new location to avoid displaying an error page.
Although a 302 redirect can enhance user experience, it is seldom a better choice than a 301 redirect. The decision on which redirect to use depends on specific circumstances.
When is a 301 redirect appropriate?
Using a 302 redirect instead of a 301 redirect can lead to issues for a website. Search engines react differently to each type of redirect, so it’s crucial to ensure the correct one is set up. Otherwise, search engines might consider it a mistake and stop directing traffic to the correct page.
Understanding the disparities between 301 and 302 redirects allows you to prevent such issues and optimize your website’s search engine performance. It also ensures you retain the SEO benefits accumulated on your previous page.
There are several instances when using a 301 redirect, which is a permanent redirect, is a preferable option.
In various situations, using 301 redirects can be beneficial:
- When you need to transfer a domain to a new destination.
- When you want to redirect links from outdated URLs to a new page, such as during website mergers.
- If you have multiple URLs for your site, select a preferred URL and employ 301 redirects to steer traffic to your new website.
- Transitioning seamlessly from an old website to a new one after permanently changing the domain name.
- When you launch your site in a new CMS and the URL structure changes.
- When converting your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Implementing a 301 redirect informs search engines about the permanent move, directing traffic from the old content to the new page. This enables search engines to adjust rankings and value signals for the new URL, recognizing it as the new permanent location.
However, while the 301 redirect is generally the recommended choice, there may be certain instances where opting for a 302 redirect would be more suitable.
When to implement a 302 redirect?
Utilizing a 302 redirect may be suitable in specific cases, despite its non-SEO-friendly nature, where a temporary webpage relocation is warranted. While such scenarios are less frequent, there are instances where it is appropriate to apply this type of redirect, as seen in e-commerce settings.
For example, if you have a product that is temporarily unavailable for sale, such as a seasonal or out-of-stock item, employing a 302 redirect can direct users to the category page of your web store. This approach ensures that users are presented with alternative products currently available for purchase while indicating to search engines that the website is only temporarily offline. Consequently, the value of the original page remains intact, without being passed on to another URL.
Another reason for opting for a 302 redirect over a 301 is to bypass the Google aging delay, a delay that arises when implementing a 301 redirect. Nonetheless, this choice can create confusion for Google, which must determine the webmaster’s intentions in using the specific type of redirect.
Google endeavors to make these distinctions to enhance the search engine experience, recognizing that webmasters have occasionally employed a 302 redirect instead of a more appropriate 301 redirect. This strategy can result in issues, affecting not only search engine rankings but also the continued indexing of the old URL, as well as the splitting of link popularity between the old and new URLs.
Another appropriate scenario for utilizing a 302 redirect is during A/B testing of a web page’s functionality or design. Employing a 302 redirect allows for soliciting feedback from clients and users on the new page without impacting the site’s ranking.
The Google Aging Delay
When relocating a web page or an entire website, it is essential to ensure users can still find the site. To achieve this, redirects are employed to automatically forward users from the old location to the new one. However, this process may not be instantaneous, and search engines, including Google, might not immediately follow the redirects.
In some cases, moving a website triggers a phenomenon known as the Google aging delay, during which the site’s search rankings drop for several months, and sometimes up to a year. This delay can be particularly detrimental for certain companies.
Guidelines for Correct Redirects
Thankfully, Google does not penalize webmasters for unintentionally using a 302 redirect when a 301 was intended. Google assesses the redirect and treats it as a 301 if it determines that was the intended choice.
Nonetheless, it is preferable to make the correct designation upfront, rather than relying on Google to correct it. There is no guarantee that Google will always make the correct judgment, so it is advisable to carefully consider the appropriate redirect type from the start, typically opting for a 301 redirect for permanent moves and a 302 redirect for temporary ones.