301 vs. 302 Redirects for SEO

Redirects are quite simple to understand. They are literally methods to direct the user to a different URL location than the one they had a request, originally. Often times, website developers interchangeable use 301 and 302 directs.

While they both redirect visitors to a separate location than where they were intending to go to, they both use different methodology to successfully redirect the website visitor. Essentially, as a webmaster, it is important to know the difference between 301 and 302 directs, because, even if users may not understand the difference, the SEO is affected.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 direct is intended to inform the visitor that a website has changed its URL location permanently and it is a change that has occurred for and about a year or more long ago. When you are thinking of using a 301 direct there are some specific points that you need to cross-check before you actually use it. There are certain criteria that need to be matched in order to ensure that you are correctly using a 301 direct. These include:

  • Your website has permanently changed its URL location.
  • You have migrated your website permanently to a new domain.
  • You want to switch between HTTP and HTTPS
  • You want to either merge more than one web page or change the URL structure of your website, or even both.
  • You want to be rid of duplicated content.

If your reasons for the redirect match these criteria, you are probably using the right redirect. However, wait until the end of this blog before you make a hasty decision. If you have used a 301 redirect, check back a year later to see how many people are still arriving at your old website. Try to identify the source of the visits, and rectify it, before you delete the redirect.

What is a 302 redirect?

A 302 redirect is basically the opposite of a 301 redirect. It informs the visitor that you have or the website has been removed temporarily from its original location. They are generally used when you want to make visitors to your website move to a different URL location for a short period of time. You could use this redirect if you are planning to redesign or update your website, and at some point, want to bring the old webpage back. You can also use this redirect if you are testing out a new webpage without wanting to affect the ranking of the original one. Once again, there are several criteria why you would want to use a 302 redirect and they include:

  • You want to redirect users to another version of your webpage which may be more appropriate for them based on their demographic.
  • You want to A/B split-test the functionality or redesign your web page.
  • You want feedback on a new page or are running some form of a promotion.

The reasons behind using a 302 redirect go beyond these stated criteria and are generally user-specific. A golden rule to remember when you are trying to decide between using the two redirect is whether you want your old web page to return or not.

How 301 vs 302 redirects affect SEO?

Using the 301 redirect makes search engines like Google, remove the old web page from their indexes. Google then transfers the link equity to the new page. However, the process is a little slow if you are looking to permanently move to a new URL location.

On the other hand, when you are using a 302 redirect, you are essentially retaining your SEO rankings from the old page, along with retaining your indexing with the search engine, like Google. No link equity is transferred onto the new page and you retain everything that you have acquired with time starting from traffic to authority.

Conclusion

The difference between the two redirects is fairly simple. It all depends on your ultimate purpose. By correctly using the redirects, you end up increasing your digital presence a lot faster. The problem lies in the fact that people often confuse between the two redirects and are unaware of their impact of SEO. It ends up damaging the performance of your website on a particular search engine that it has been indexed on. Therefore, before you plan on shifting your URL location, first learn about the different redirects, do a little research on effective implementation that will only end up helping you instead improve your website’s performance.

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