301 vs 302 redirection in SEO. For those non-technical, a 301 and 302 redirect sounds foreign. In this article, we’ll be discussing what a 301 and 302 redirect is, how it impacts SEO, and how we can use it.
Redirect means “to direct (someone or something) to a different place or by a different route.”
To simplify, redirecting a page usually means you’re giving a new URL to it.
This is not always the case because sometimes, when people use redirection, they also change the format, the coding, the navigation, etc. It relies on what objective you are redirecting the page.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a situation on your website calls for a 301 or 302 redirect, but let us tell you right here and now that this is not an uncommon problem, and there are a lot of technical details involved. So, in this article, we cover what you need to know about your constant redirects, when is the right time to use them, and how they affect your search engine rankings.
But first, what is a surprise?
Think of it as a way to redirect users and search engines from the original they want to visit a specific URL. You may need to redirect it from your old URL to the new one for various reasons such as e.g.
- URL does not work as intended;
- you have a new page or website;
- You’re trying to fix an old page and want to send someone to a temporary page while it’s still being built.
Using 301 or 302 redirects has a significant impact on the performance of your website and whether URLs are used to navigate your pages. Search engines use them to crawl your site’s structure, so they should follow your intentions and not interfere with the user experience.
So how do you know when to use it, and is it working as intended?
USE 301 TRANSFER
When using the 301 vs. 302, a status code lets search engines know that a certain page or website has permanently moved to a new URL. When using this tactic, you need to consider why users are switching to the old URL. For example, the traffic source might point to a different page than your new URL.
Tip: we always recommend that you evaluate your traffic lists and who is responsible for sending them to specific URLs before they reach a new (correct) page. This way, you can fix any navigation causing problems in your user flow and resolve confusion caused by search engines.
The best time to use 301 redirects is when purchasing a domain you want to ship to your primary domain. This is also a very common practice. For example, you might get a relevant URL that you want to use but keep your main site as the primary site because of its higher domain authority. You will then use 301 as your status code to tell search engines which is the “right” one and ensure users get what they need from their request first.
Did you know that it’s normal for many users to type “www” when searching for a website in their URL bar (e.g. xyz.com.au), but it’s not the main URL (www.xyz.com.au). Therefore, we will use a 301 Redirect to move users who go to xyz.com.au to land on www.xyz.com.au. Okay, that’s a complete bite, but you get the point. All of this should also consider the HTTP status.
Another circumstance for 301 redirects is when you merge two websites into one page. Either you use one URL as the primary URL and the other a 301 redirect, or you purchase a completely different domain name, and both URLs use 301 for the new URL. Pardon all the jargon, but here’s what you need to know about this aspect of website structuring.
USE 302 DIRECTIONS
Now that you are somewhat proficient at using 301 redirects let’s look at using 302 redirects. In the simplest of explanations, 302 redirects shift users to a new page for a limited time. This may be because you need to create or edit a specific URL and steer away from it until you are done.
However, you should only use 302 redirects if you plan to delete them and return them to the home page.
You can also use 302 redirects to test if the new page performs well and get good feedback from users without hurting your original PageRank.
Are 301 Redirects Bad for SEO?
Using Redirect 301 versus Redirect 302 means that Google removes the original URL from their indexing and pushes the highest value (such as the value of the link you created) to the new destination.
However, it’s important to understand that if you flag that your site has moved permanently (or temporarily) from one location to another, search engines will take time to crawl and recognize the change, regardless of whether you use 302 redirects or 301. This means that your ranking changes will get delayed, and you need to take all this into account when evaluating the effectiveness of your website.
Enough for 301 redirects versus 302 – what about 404 errors?
Finally, it’s important to discuss how 404 codes can plug into equations quickly. In short, 404 is not a redirect. It’s code that tells users and search engines that a specific URL wasn’t found. And that is NOT a good thing in terms of search engine rankings in general.
The 404 error occurs when the page is completely removed from the website and server, but the link is still active. 301 or 302 don’t redirect the user to where they should be, and instead the connection drops and returns a 404 error.
In addition to your site’s performance on search engines, 404 errors are frustrating for users, and they are a good reason for them to leave your site altogether. Therefore, it is important for your SEO team to evaluate the redirects and whether your 301 and 302 redirects are working correctly – or even exist.
As soon as the browser redirects to the correct address, you eliminate the risk that it will stray from your page in disappointment. Ensuring that a 404 is not enough helps your performance and ranking a lot and will keep users happy.
You usually redirect a web page for the following reasons:
- If the URL is broken or it doesn’t work.
- The webpage or website is no longer active.
- You have a new website or page that you want people to visit instead of the old one.
- You are A/B testing a new webpage in terms of functionality or design.
- You are fixing a webpage, and you want to temporarily make a detour for your web visitor for a continual website experience.
301 Redirect vs. a 302 Redirect
A 301 redirect informs search engines and users that the web page has forever shifted while simultaneously taking them to the accurate page. Therefore, users are redirected to the new page that has replaced the old one.
Meanwhile, suppose you choose to relocate the existing content to a new URL only for a temporary period, for reasons like website testing, and want to direct users to a short-term URL. In that case, you can use 302 redirects.
How to redirect a page using WordPress?
Redirect via server
Redirect via server is one of the most effective ways, both from the perspective of web page speed and technical efficiency. WordPress doesn’t allow 301 redirects directly. Thus, redirection using the server is the most selected option. Although this approach totally relies upon the stack of software your WordPress domain might be using.
Redirect using plugins
You should only use this option if redirecting via a server isn’t working for your domain. Using plugins for 301 redirects will be slower and rely heavily on a third party, which may not be reliable.
Few mistakes to avoid in 301 redirection
Setting 302 redirection
301 redirects are used for the permanent redirection of one Web page to another, and 302 redirects are used for a Web page’s temporary redirection. It is common to confuse them both. Use the Site Audit Tool to determine which redirection status is used on your Web page.
Redirecting a page where the intent differs from the original one
Proper organization and record-keeping can help you avoid this mistake. Ensure that the users get redirected to the page they’re searching for and not another Web page.
301 redirects after creating a new page
When you create a new page or, for whatever reason, move the content of an existing page to a new one, you can use the 301 redirect status code to notify users of the redirection and direct them to your current page via a redirection link or button.
302 redirect during the content migration
When you migrate or move your existing content to a new page or URL for a limited time, such as when testing your page, assessing its performance, gathering client feedback, or fixing any other issue, you want users to be aware of the migration, so you can use a 302 redirect.
We know we’ve covered many technical aspects of redirects in this article. Still, when it comes to creating effective marketing for your brand or clients, 301 and 302 redirects play a considerable role in your overall strategy.
Proper use of redirects can degrade or interfere with your site’s navigation and affect how search engines index your business in their archives from start to finish.
Abandoning or switching the way users get redirected from one page to another on your site can do more harm than good, so instead of avoiding this task, go ahead and make everyone involved smile.
However, if all of this seems overwhelming and you feel you could use some help to navigate the redirect process, our experts can assess what type of redirect and what data your content supports, and whether we can offer a solution to make the necessary changes.