FAQ: 301 Redirects vs 302 Redirects: Which one is better?

Hey Ulrich,
 
How’s it going?
 
I have a quick question. What exactly is the difference a 301 and a 302 redirect and which one is better?
 
I found this tool that shows the redirect path of a url:
http://www.seoegghead.com/tools/view-http-path.seo

Thanks for the question… This is going to be a content filled post so grab a snack if you plan to read the whole thing…

If you’re busy and just want the gist of this article… here goes…

Permanent 301 Redirects are better because they maintain SEO value and tranfer it to the redirect destination.

Most people when they set up redirects do not intend to go back and remove the redirect so I recomment and prefer permanent 301 redirects since in essence you are making a permanent change to where you want visiters to go.

There is more to this, and obviously the down and dirty answer is, “it depends,” but for the majority of situations a 301 redirect is the way to go…

The difference between a 301 redirect and a 302 redirect comes down to what
you want to tell the search engines. If you are moving to a completely new domain, you can
put in a 301 redirect, but if you’re just working on your site and just don’t want visiters to see your stuff
you can issue a 302 redirect. Now I understand this doesn’t tell you too much so I’m going to break it down.

What is a permanent 301 redirect?

 

So as the name suggests, a permanent redirect is a full fledged change of address.

They are permanent redirects from an old URL to a new one. These redirects tell the search engines that the old location is to be removed from their index and replaced with the new location. Using 301 redirects is the most search engine friendly way to redirect traffic and engines, and far out weighs that of various JavaScript and Meta refresh redirects.

What is a temporary 302 redirect?

 

Temporary 302 redirects are also as they sound; temporary. Here you are telling the search engines to read and use the content on the new page, but to keep checking the original URL first as it will ultimately be reestablished.

So keeping with the mailing address them, this is similar to going to college for a few years and telling the mail man to forward the mail to your dorm room. The understanding is that after a certain point in time you will go back to your permanent address. In this case it would be the permanent url.

So what are common uses of permanent 301 redirects?

 

I’m guessing that if you are redirecting something, you’re not looking to ever remove the redirect in the future so the

best bet is to use a 301 redirect. It is the most common redirect known and it even allows Google PageRank to be transfered to the new redirect destination page from the old page.

 

Page Deleted or Moved

From past experience the most common use for a 301 redirect is the moving or deletion of a single page. Let’s say that you are no longer selling a specific product and therefore have no need for its page. Using a 301 redirect to send the spiders to either the next closest product, or to a relevant product list would be of far more value then having your site return a 404 error and sending users to an error page. Error pages are never good and reflect poorly on your site in the Search Engines, so keep an eye out for errors.

The same goes with pages that are simply moved. While you are probably better off keeping the page where it is, there are many valid reasons why you may need it moved, and in this case a 301 redirect is essential to keep both the search engines, and your site users (who may have bookmarked this old page) happy. If you’re in this for the long haul it’s critical that you don’t throw away all your hard work by not giving visitors a easy redirect back to your website. (not to mention all the link love you would be throwing away if you do not use a 301 redirect)

 

New Root domain (i.e. Top Level Domain)

If for whatever reason you are thinking about changing your main domain name,

don’t do it….

However, If you find that there is just no way around it, and that the change is essential, 301 redirects are your answer.

By using a 301 redirect to send traffic from your old site to your new site you can help ensure that ranking damage will be minimal. Without a 301 redirect your new site will be a completely from scratch endeavor with years of hard work down the drain and any historic profile that a search engine has created will not be carried over to the new site.

If you’ve worked with me or had a consulation with me then you know how important website age is, as well as PageRank (or as I like to call it … Trust Rank). If you’re a new website, then Google doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want to introduce you to their friends right away. However, as an older more established site… if you redirect it to the new website than Google sees you’re not some spammer and gives you the trust needed to rank within the search engines…

 

Using WWW vs Non-WWW on your website

This is one of the most common uses of a 301 redirect when used in combination with Mod Rewrites. Essentially by using a permanent 301 redirect to send traffic destined to the non www version of your site (site.com) to the www version (www.site.com) you can focus the strength and prevent page rank split, giving your site’s home page (and internal pages) a nice little boost.

This is so extremely important I could scream… !

So Google ranks pages… let me repeat… Google ranks “PAGES”… so the url matters..

There is a difference between all of the following urls

  • veritasresultsmarketing.com
  • http://veritasresultsmarketing.com
  • www.veritasresultsmarketing.com
  • http://www.veritasresultsmarketing.com
  • http://veritasresultsmarketing.com/
  • http://www.veritasresultsmarketing.com/
  • http://veritasresultsmarketing.com/index.html
  • http://www.veritasresultsmarketing.com/index.html

Though all of them lead to the homepage of this website, they are different in the eyes of Google and can be seen as duplicate content. It also causes all the PageRank of a website to be divided amongst all the different urls… so a quick insider secret that you may not know yet, if you consolidate all these urls with a permanent 301 redirect than you could see a nice boost in rankings over the next few weeks…

 

Duplicate Pages (refer to the list above for possible nightmares of what is possible)

More often than not you will find websites with valid multiple home page URL’s all which serve up the same identical page. This is most common with two versions of the home page such as: www.site.com and www.site.com/index.html.

If you look at the bulleted list above for different ways to go to the homepage of this website you will see what I am talking about… THIS IS BIG… internal linking structure matters.

The first step is to update all your home page links to ensure that only non-index.html version is referenced. Should you happen to miss any home page links, and to direct these /index.html pages to the right place, adding the 301 redirect will ensure that you are not splitting the page value (i.e. Utilizing the PageRank of your website to make more money).

 

301 Redirects are perfect for Old Domains

If you find yourself with multiple websites and one or more of them are completely outdated, but still relevant and you have no chance of revitalizing it, you may want to consider using a 301 redirect to send traffic and engines to your current site.

ALERT: You can get more bang for your buck if you find a way to revitalize the website, but if this is to much of a strain… then use the 301 redirect…

By redirecting all internal pages of the old site to the most relevant internal pages of your new site, you will not only ensure that site visitors reach the proper updated content, but that any pre-existing rankings, link value, and other search engine/link loving goodness is transferred over to the new, active money website.

WARNING: If you find yourself in the unusual situation of having dozens, or even hundreds of old websites, do not 301 all of them at the same time, you could likely be flagged as a spammer and endure penalties or a possible banning. If this is the case, just redirect a few of your sites that happen to have the most to offer in terms of rankings and traffic.

 

Rewriting confusing URL strings via Mod Rewrite

Lets say that you have a site with long confusing URL strings for all internal pages. These days the major search engines do a much better job of indexing these obscure file locations, but it is still in your best interest to redirect them to a friendlier, cleaner URL. To do this you can use Mod Rewrites which utilize 301 redirects to turn this:

http://www.veritasresultsmarketing.com/categories/pageid?SEO=348H&model=8889KHl&Consulting=554hY

Into this: 

http://www.veritasresultsmarketing.com/SEO/Consulting/Boston/

This URL is not only far more friendly to human visitors, it adds a higher level of relevance for the search engines and is easy to index.

So what are common uses of temporary 302 redirects?

 

So this is where I don’t have much to say about a topic since the scope of a temporary 302 redirect is quite limited.

It’s mostly used for short periods of time when the intention is to remove the redirect once certain objectives have been completed.

Now I hate to sound tongue and cheak but, when was the last time you redirected something and thought in the back of your mind you were going to come back and remove the redirect?

hmmm… I’m betting my breakfast the majority of people say ‘never’…

alas, here is a valid reason to use a temporary 302 redirect…

 

If you are Temporarily Moving a Page

This is the main reason this 302 redirect exists. If the time comes where you need to relocate a page on a temporary basis, with the ultimate final destination of the page being at the original location, then you would want to use the 302 redirect.

 

If you are doing conversion testing (i.e. split testing)

Since there are only two ways to make more money online (i.e. get more traffic, or get more of the traffic you have to buy) it is important to be testing on a continuous basis. It is far easier to increase the percentage of visitors who buy than to increase the amount of visiters to a website. When testing you could be using different urls for different campaigns, or have a test page online that you don’t really want to have indexed until the test results are in…

Amazon.com does alot of testing in this fashion with their urls. If you go to their product bestseller list and click a product you will see the long query of stuff which they use for tracking

Below is an example for the product

VIZIO XVT473SV 47-Inch Full HD 1080p LED LCD HDTV with VIA Internet Application, Black

[This is what the real url looks like]

http://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-XVT473SV-47-Inch-Internet-Application/dp/B003GDHI0I/ 

[This is what the tracking url, that does a redirect, looks like]

http://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-XVT473SV-47-Inch-Internet-Application/dp/B003GDHI0I/ref=pd_nr_e_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics

And the last purpose for a 302 redirect I can think of is

 

Home Page Redirect

If you have ever gone to a homepage of some site and then looked at the URL string and saw something like www.site.com/home/redir/pageinfo?id=23498874&g=34, but in actuality it is still their home page,then you have witnessed a 302 redirect.

Home Depot does this… visit their website and click on the link at the top left that brings you back to the homepage… you will see the crazy url string… It’s to bad home depot doesn’t know about this website, because if they fixed their internal linking structure, they would be able to get some serious search engine rankings…. alas… I digress…

There are many cases where various dynamic sites or content management systems choose to rewrite the home page using some lengthy string of variables. The best fix for this is to use a mod-rewrite to change the messy URL into a simple www.site.com. Sometimes however, mod-rewrites may not work due to various server constraints, in which case, using a 302 redirect may be the answer.

By redirecting the home page of your site using a 302 redirect to this longer, more obscure URL, you essentially are telling the engines to continue using the shorter, original URL, but index and rank based on the content of the longer version. Amazon.com is doing this the right way with their tracking urls…

In doing so you will not only clean up the display URL in any search engine rankings, but you will also help retain value from any links pointing into your home page from outside sources, ultimately helping to improve your overall search engine rankings.

– – – – — – – – – –

Whenever building a website, it is important to pay attention to the internal linking structure… This is one of the few things you can control to influence your rankings within the search engine so by using on-page leverage you can blast past your competition who isn’t paying attention to the way they link within their website…

It is also important to pay attention to any errors on the website since a redirect can be a quick fix to a poor site quality problem in the eyes of Google.

When it comes to 301 vs 302 redirects… I prefer and recommend 301 Redirects for all my clients… in the majority of cases…

It is very rare for people to build temporary redirects, unless something out of the ordinary is going on… (i.e. testing, or the cms system is doing it without the business owner knowing it)

Hate this post or love it…Show me you’re alive and leave me a comment below…

If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else, you can send me an email at

Ulrich (at) VeritasResultsMarketing.com