Redirects are a useful way to deal with any site or page level changes. When you are moving your site resources to a new location, a redirect helps to switch the user to the new location and, thus, provide a seamless experience.
To provide a redirect, HTTP servers use two types of status codes, 301 and 302, depending on the occasion. If you don’t use them properly, you stand the danger of harming your SEO. Read on to learn and understand when to use the 301 and 302 for the best results.
HTTP Code 301 and 302 – Uses and Differences
An HTTP code represents a particular status and may give additional information relevant to that particular status. Both 301 and 302 indicate a successful status involving a redirect from the server.
The commonality between these two status codes is that both represent a situation where you try to access a particular URL but are redirected to another URL by the server. It essentially means reassigning an URL. This is usually done as a way to give continued service to the user in case the original path is not available anymore. Some reasons why you might consider a redirect are:
- When the website or page is no longer active
- The URL link is broken
- You have updated new web pages and sites for the same URL
- When performing alpha/beta testing, you will require the use of redirects
- Redirects may be used as a temporary fix for a broken page or site under maintenance
- When migrating a website
The major difference between the 301 and the 302 is the duration of their use.
A 301 is used when the redirect is permanent. Scenarios like domain name update, web host change, and permanent URL updates use 301. Recently, blackjackrules.in, for instance, used 301 redirect to update their web host.
A 302 redirect is used when the redirect is temporary. This is supposed to be used when you want a temporary redirect for testing and maintenance purposes.
Redirects and SEO
To understand the impact of redirects on SEO, you need to understand how search engines work. Search engines assign ranking to websites and web pages based on the various criteria that factor in the content, keyword selection, meta descriptions, site performance, backlinks, and so on. The overall rank is thus associated with the links.
When you redirect your pages to a newer link, this can chase a shift in your SEO rankings.
Some pages that you are about to redirect might have garnered a good ranking with SEO, which you risk losing with a permanent redirect.
You get what is called as aging delay in your SEO, where it takes a good deal of time to get your updated pages to get the high ranks the old pages used to have.
The concept of aging delay might motivate webmasters to use 302s in place of 301 to preserve the SEO ranking. But beware, experts say that search engines do take the meaning behind the status codes seriously, and duping 302 when a 301 is supposed to be used could confuse the search engine and ultimately damage your site’s reputation.
Search engines are constantly improving to deal with redirects efficiently. Hence, the best way to use redirects with minimal impact on SEO is to use them as they are supposed to be.
Using HTTP 301
Use HTTP 301 redirects when redirecting URLs permanently. While it may take a little time to climb up the ranking ladder, 301 redirects can help you build up organic growth to your pages.
Additionally, search engines are now more capable of transferring the link juice from older pages to the newer pages effectively.
Link juice refers to the level of authority, trust, and keyword relevance associated with a particular link.
When the search engine looks at the 301 redirects, it will remove the indexing from the old page and transfer it to the new page.
Use this status code whenever you are sure of a permanent move. Some sample instances are.
- Http to https migration
- Domain name update
- Permanent content update
- Merging websites
Using HTTP 302
When you use an HTTP 302 redirect, the old page remains indexed in the search engines as it is considered to represent a temporary situation. Thereby, there is no transfer of link juice, and when your original pages go live, they will retain the ranking as before. The search engine infers that the content is temporarily unavailable and hence retains the indexing for the original URL.
Use this redirect only when you are making a temporary change to the URL in case of maintenance or testing.
For instance, if you have a product page in your e-commerce site for a product that is no longer in stock, you can use a 302 redirect to a similar product page. When the product comes back in stock, you can remove the redirect and use the old product page itself.
Some more places where 302 might be useful are:
- Temporary URL change
- Redirects based on language and location preferences for improved website accessibility
- Desktop to mobile redirects and vice versa.
While it is simple to make a 302 redirect, it is not always the best way to go about it. Consider the case in question and use the redirect accordingly. Using the wrong redirects can confuse and affect your long term SEO. For a permanent change, always make sure to use the 301 redirects.