301 and 302 Redirects Explained by Your Web Marketing Agency
When a user lands on a 301 or a 302 page redirect, all they want is an easy redirect service that takes them to the website they want to visit. So, what is the difference between a 301 redirect page and a 302 redirect page – and why does it matter? As a web marketing agency we thought it might be a good idea to explain to our clients why a redirect page is important and which one should be used.
What are 301 & 302 Redirect Pages?
If you want to move your website to a new location because you want to change your domain name, you will want visitors to find your new website. A redirect will tell the user’s browser to go from the old location to the new one automatically.
While redirect pages are useful for users to show them the page they want to visit has been moved, they also serve as instruction for search engines. A 301 redirect means the page has been moved to a new location permanently, while a 302 is only a temporary move.
A 302 is easier to set up than a 301. Setting up a 301 requires special commands and much more time, which means that many people mistakenly use a 302 because it seems like the easier option.
Unfortunately, when a site moves it can cause a drop in page rank, and to avoid this it is essential that you choose the correct redirect method.
Redirecting a Website – More than Just the URL
When you redirect the website, you want to make sure all your historical information is carried to the new address otherwise you will lose your hard-earned SEO history. The key is to ensure that Google and other browsers have clear instructions to:
- Send users to the new address
- Pass all SEO signals to the new site
The signals include links, page rank, and history.
When to Use 302 Pages
Why do we bother with 302 pages if a 301 is better? Well, there are circumstances when a 302 is a better use of your time. Because it is so much easier to set up, a 302 is useful when you can direct people to a landing page that is promoting a short-term special offer, event or promotion.
You could also use a 302 direct if you need to send visitors to a temporary site that is being used while you redesign your old site.
Multiple Redirect Confusion
Sometimes we send confusing signals. For example, we might set up a 302 temporary redirect with the intention of changing it to a 301 permanently, but we may forget. Or, what if we need to place a few different instructions on the same site, one page may require a permanent redirect, while other pages are sent to a temporary site. When both 301 and 302 redirects are used it can be confusing to Google. When the instructions aren’t clear the bots scramble to choose a path through the data, which often leads to broken links.
What happens if a 302 is used long-term?
There is no defined time limit on a 302 redirect, but at some point Google may decide that the page is not temporary. Let’s say you are moving from a non-secure http site to a secure https site, and you set up a 302 during the transition, but six months later you still haven’t changed it. Google, with its logical AI mind is going to determine that this transition was not supposed to be temporary, and it will redirect to whichever page is secure, which may be one that you don’t want visitors going to.
Checking Page Signals and Page Rank
To determine where signals are being sent on your website, check the Page rank on the various pages of your site. The one that is ranking highest is where the signals are going.
What about Rel=Canonicals?
While 301s and 302s are for developers and users, rel=canonicals are for the bots. It is through the use of rel=canonicals that we give the bots instructions. If we want to shift direction from Page 1 to Page 2, we use canonicals to tell the bots that Page 2 is now the main page that we want to rank with the search engines, but we want users to stay on Page 1, because it has a more people-friendly design.
This is different from a 301 that directs both people and bots to Page 2, and it is different from a 302, which directs people to the temporary page, but wants to keep the bots on the original page to ensure no signals are lost during the temporary transition.
The Key Points of Redirects
The most important points to remember here are that you do not want to lose page rank signals or visitors during a transition. So you must use the right signals to make sure the bots and browsers have clear instructions.
- 301s must be used for a permanent move to ensure that both bots, browsers, visitors, and signals are all redirected.
- Rel=canonicals send clear instructions to the bots, but they won’t redirect visitors,
- 302s can be used temporarily, but they may pass on rank signals that you don’t want passed on.
To be certain that you have followed the correct procedure, why not use a web marketing agency to ensure your site will not suffer a drop in page rank. At Blueprint Internet Marketing, we provide web marketing services that ensure a smooth transition from your old website to your new one.
To get a complete understanding of what you can do to improve your Website from an SEO perspective, get an SEO audit.