Redirects are a vital aspect that website owners must consider to ensure their website visitors have an enjoyable and seamless experience. Moreover, incorporating redirects correctly can significantly improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. However, the choice between a 301 and 302 redirect is crucial, as choosing the wrong option may frustrate your visitors, and negatively impact your search engine ranking. In this post, we will delve into the differences between 301 and 302 redirects, and how to choose the appropriate option for your needs.
What are 301 and 302 Redirects?
Before we proceed to differentiate between the two types of redirects, let’s start by understanding what they are.
301 redirects are permanent redirects that redirect both users and search engines to a new webpage. This type of redirect notifies the search engines that the original webpage no longer exists and automatically directs the user to the new webpage. 301 redirects are most used when permanently moving a page or website to a new domain. For example, when you change your website’s domain from www.example1.com to www.example2.com, you’ll use a 301 redirect to redirect all of the old website’s URLs to the new website’s URLs.
302 redirects, on the other hand, are temporary redirects that redirect users and search engines to a new webpage, but unlike 301 redirects, they intend to be temporary. When using a 302 redirect, visitors are redirected to a different page, but the search engine considers the original page as the primary page. For instance, if you wanted to redirect your visitors temporarily from www.example1.com/sale to www.example1.com/sale-new, you would use a 302 redirect.
The Impact of 301 and 302 Redirects on SEO
Redirecting a webpage is important for SEO when the original webpage is no longer available or has changed. So what is the impact of the different types of redirects on your SEO?
301 redirects pass approximately 90-99% of link equity or ranking power from the original webpage to the new webpage, while 302 redirects do not pass the link equity or ranking power from the original webpage to the new webpage. Search engines recognize 301 redirects as permanent changes rather than temporary ones, thus transferring the ranking power to the new page. On the other hand, 302 redirects are seen as temporary changes, and the ranking power remains with the original page.
When employing 301 redirects, search engines react accordingly and give your new destination URL significantly improved search engine rankings. On the other hand, if you use 302 redirects, the link equity will always go to the original page, and search engine rankings will not improve. It is worth noting that when used on a large scale, Google may begin to classify 302 redirects as 301 due to their overuse.
When to Use 301 Redirects
301 redirects are considered the most effective, and as an SEO best practice, they should be the default redirect type when moving a page or website. Here are situations when 301 redirects are the ideal choice:
When migrating a website from one domain to another
If you are migrating your website from one domain to another, like in our earlier example, you’ll need to use a 301 redirect. This will ensure that visitors who type or click on the old domain will automatically be redirected to the new domain’s equivalent page, maintaining any link equity and search engine rank that the original page held.
Replacing a webpage permanently
If you are making significant changes to your website or permanently getting rid of a specific page, redirecting to the new, relevant page is essential. In this instance, a 301 redirect would be the best option for directing users automatically to the new page and transferring any link equity from the original page to the new page.
When to Use 302 Redirects
In contrast, 302 redirects are more useful when you want to redirect visitors to an updated page temporarily in situations such as:
When employing A/B tests on your website, you can use a 302 redirect to alternate between two versions of the same page. In doing so, users can can access both versions of the website without it affecting the website’s search engine rankings.
Temporary site maintenance or new site construction
When your website is temporarily down for maintenance, you can use a 302 redirect to redirect visitors from the affected pages to a customized “The site is temporarily unavailable” page. This page informs users that the website is temporarily down for maintenance instead of letting them encounter an error message. Similarly, if you’re using a coming soon page or building a new site, you can use a 302 redirect to inform visitors that the site is “under construction” and give them an estimated time of completion.
When used correctly, redirects can be an excellent tool for both improving the user experience and boosting SEO effectiveness. However, to achieve these objectives, you must consistently select the correct redirect type in different scenarios. Remember to only use 301 redirects when permanently redirecting to a new page, and 302 redirects when the redirect is only meant to be temporary. Following these guidelines, your website visitors will have an excellent experience, and your search engine rankings will benefit.