301 and 302 redirects might seem to be similar to an end-user. However, webmasters bend over backward to fully understand the difference between 301 and 302 redirects.
When it comes to search engines, a 301 redirect represents the shifting of a website to an entirely new location. Whereas, a 302 redirect means that even if the website has moved, it’s only temporary and will return soon.
Following are the reasons when you might need to redirect your webpage:
- Broken URL
- You have developed a new website/webpage
- You’re making amends to your website and want to direct your users to another page, while your primary website is under construction.
But why is this important to you to know 301 redirect vs 302 redirect? You could simply launch a new domain name and move all content there. What’s the harm?
Well, if the search engine fails to figure out whether it needs to keep the old page or replace it with a new one, found in a new location, you will end up losing a lot of traffic.
However, over the years, since it is easier to create a 302 redirect than a 301 redirect, webmasters have been conveniently substituting 302 redirects for a 301 redirect.
This causes quite a lot of issues for a website.
Before we delve into which one you should use to prevent loss of traffic, let’s find out what these redirects really mean.
What is a 301 Redirect?
When a website or page is permanently moved to a new location, a 301 redirect status code alerts the search engine and users about this change and directs them to the new/correct page.
From a search engine perspective, you can understand it this way: a permanent redirect (301) helps search engines change the URL of the page.
In layman terms, a 301 redirect is a Change of Address form for a website when it wants to move to a new domain name.
In fact, when you use a 301 redirect, all your SEO efforts are transferred to the new address and your website ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs) remains unperturbed by all this movement.
To maintain your ranking, it is of extreme importance to understand temporary vs permanent redirects.
When to Use a 301 Redirect?
It is very important to understand when to use a 301 redirect and when it is apt to use a 302 redirect. If this isn’t done correctly, your website can land some serious harm.
A 301 redirect is usually used when a webmaster purchases new domains to be sent to the primary domain. These other domains could be misspellings of the brand, variations of the brand, or some relevant domain names with high Domain Authority.
Source: Hallam Internet
A 301 redirect will direct all users to your primary webpage without disturbing your SEO efforts and traffic.
To help you understand better, I’ve listed a few examples of 301 redirect usage.
- When you want to conduct domain transfer
- When there are outdated URLs whose links are all over the internet and they need to be directed to your new webpage. This is generally the case when you want to merge two websites.
- When you have various URLs for your website. It would be wise to redirect them to one destination and use 301 redirects to direct traffic to that destination.
- When you’re launching an entirely new website with a new domain name and want to swiftly shift from your old website.
- When you’ve developed your website on a new content management system (CMS), where the URL structure is different.
- When you want to migrate your HTTP website to HTTPS.
One good way to understand this is:
Consider a website www.abc.com. However, users usually just type abc.com in the brower. The best idea would be to use a 301 redirect to direct traffic from abc.com to www.abc.com.
The 301 status code tells the search engine that the website has permanently moved to a new location and all traffic must be sent there.
The scenarios mentioned above are the ideal times when 301 redirects should be used. However, there are times when it’s best to use a 302 redirect.
What is a 302 Redirect?
This is used when you want to indicate to search engines and your users that your website has temporarily moved to a new domain. The message shown is “A 302 found (HTTP 1.1)” or “Moved temporarily (HTTP 1.0)”.
Source: Blog Vault
Since it is relatively easier to do, most website owners just end up using it instead of a 301 redirect, which ensues problems.
The problems arise because when people use a 302 redirect when they should have been using a 301 redirect, search engines get confused detecting whether a particular 302 redirect was actually intended as it was.
This causes a lot of trouble with search engine rankings, such as continued indexing of the old URL and deciding traffic direction and link popularity between the old and new URLs.
As a result, the page you didn’t intend to come up in search engines might just wind up popping up on the SERPs.
This is why it is important to know when to use a 302 redirect.
When to Use a 302 Redirect?
Does a 302 hurt SEO?
Yes! If not done correctly.
Even though it does create problems with the website SEO, there are times when it ideal to use a 302 redirect.
This is unlikely because one generally doesn’t move their website to a new webpage temporarily. But in the following cases, it could become necessary.
A few examples of 302 redirect usage are:
- When you want to conduct an A/B test on your webpage for functionality and design recommendations.
- When you want to gain client feedback on your webpage, without hurting your site’s ranking.
- When you want to update a webpage without causing inconvenience to your users.
- When you’re fixing a broken webpage and want to send users to another page during the construction phase.
Clearly, a 301 redirect vs 302 redirect means a permanent redirect vs temporary redirect.
Never should you ever use a 302 in place of a 301 redirect when you want to redirect users permanently.
What do the 301 and 302 Numbers Signify?
The numbers of 301 and 302 redirects allude to their HTTP status code.
There are five classes of HTTP status codes inside the official registry, and the primary digit of every status code distinguishes its response class.
At the point when a code starts with the number three, it means that the code is a part of the redirecting class.
Check out the top HTTP status codes below.
Source: Fix Error Code
But why does 301 vs 302 status code matter?
The code is significant as a result of your “link juice”.
This beguiling term alludes to search engine value that you have developed for a particular URL.
At the point when you have to let internet search engines realize that your website or the page has moved, you should appropriately divert them to the new page.
The “status” of your redirect is of utmost importance here, or else you will end up losing this “link juice” and basically start again. You might also end up competing against your old page simultaneously.
At the point when your URL is appropriately redirected, you keep up your link juice and domain authority as you move everything over to your new page, which means you keep up your search engine rankings and link value.
A 302 divert doesn’t pass the “juice”, or bring your domain authority to a new webpage. It basically diverts the client to the new page for you so they don’t see a messed up link, a 404 not found, or an error.
How Do 301 and 302 Redirects Impact Your SEO?
When there is a 301 redirect, the old page is removed from Google’s index and almost all the link value is transferred to the new page.
However, it is important to note that Google takes some time to notice the change and so, you need to be patient and wait for the ranking and traffic to come back.
On the other hand, when a 302 redirect used, Google keeps the original URL in its index and transfers no link value to the new URL. This is because 302 is a temporary redirect.
So, when you come back to your original URL, your ranking, traffic, domain authority, and the link juice will be retained.
The image below clearly depicts the difference between 301 and 302 redirects.
Source: The Build Media
People confuse between the two and end up losing all traffic upon putting up a 302 redirect when, in fact, a 301 should have been used. This is why you must know the difference between 301 and 302 redirects.
A Bit About 404 Error
While we’re at 301 and 301 redirects, why not also cover 404 a little as it impacts SEO?
A 404, unlike a redirect, is an error code, which means “not found”.
This happens when a webpage is deleted from its parent website and the server as well, but its backlinks are still available on the internet.
When someone clicks that link, they are presented to the 404 error page.
This causes serious damage to your website’s ranking and overall SEO performance.
To avoid this, you would need temporary vs permanent redirects.
How Long Should a Redirect Last?
Now let’s say you now want to use a 301 redirect for permanent migration to a new URL.
But then, how long is permanent? Till when will you be maintaining the redirect?
According to John Mueller,
“…when we look at 301 redirects and permanent site move situations, we do expect that 301 redirect to be there for the long run. So that could be something maybe a year, or ideally even longer than a year so that we can really be sure that everything that was pointing at the old URLs is pointing at the new URLs.”
For example, Moz is still keeping the domain name SEOMoz.com to keep the redirect on point.
In case they stop maintaining the redirect and someone ends up buying the domain name, all SEOMoz links would be left broken and the control will automatically fall on to its new owner.
When you want to change a subdomain or subfolder of a URL while keeping the primary domain name, it is regarded as a small redirect.
You can keep the redirect set up inconclusively without any issues. It doesn’t put a strain on your server or spending plan as such.
For bigger redirects, such as when you want an entirely new domain name, Google prescribes keeping the redirect set up for at least a year.
Following a year, start taking a gander at your server logs.
In the event that individuals are still being redirected from the old URL to the new URL, try to understand where they are coming from.
It may be old dynamic links, it may be clients with bookmarks, and it could be anything.
Make sense of what the source is and try to change the source to the precise URL before you evacuate and relinquish the redirect.
In the event that you can keep the old domain name uncertainly without strain on your spending limit, just to keep the redirect alive, don’t hesitate to do as such.
Utilize whatever kind of redirect is best for your purpose and objectives.
You should know when to use a 301 redirect vs 302 redirect.
Instruct yourself on the differences between 301 and 302 redirects and ensure that you’re utilizing the right redirect for the intended result.
In the event that you use a 302 for a temporary change and you find later on that it is likely to become a permanent change, change the redirect from a 301 to a 302.
At last, screen your rankings to guarantee that Google can find your new pages and that you haven’t made a mistake for which your website’s SEO performance should pay the price.