301 And 302 Redirects Explained
When a business decides to overhaul their image, it is very common for a new website to be put into development. Most of the time, this will involve a new URL as well. So, the business is faced with the question of how to get their site traffic and search engine rankings to follow the business over to the new domain. Everything that has to do with the old URL has to be redirected to the new URL. This can be a daunting task, depending on the size and amount of the website being redirected. When a redirect is done the correct way, it can be used to clean up the structure of an old website as well as to get rid of outdated or rarely visited content, and make the experience more streamlined for visitors to the page.
What is a redirect?
A redirect is the process of guiding both users and search engines from the original URL requested to a different URL. It is essentially a “change of address” for the previous URL. When done correctly, it tells search engines and users that the website they are looking for no longer “lives” at that address and all the content, which stays the same, has moved to a new location.
Are there different types of redirects and if so, what are the differences?
There are quite a few different types of redirects, but the two most common are 301 redirects and 302 redirects.
- This type of redirect tells search engines that a page is permanently moved to the new URL that is provided via the redirect.
- Considered the best method for implementing redirects and passes almost all of the old URL’s ranking power to the new URL.
- Tells users and search engines that the original URL is no longer relevant and the most up to date information can be found on the new URL provided.
- It takes some time for search engines to find the 301, recognize it as an address change and credit the new page with the old page’s rankings and trust.
- 301 redirects that involve an entire site changing its domain completely, including moving the entire contents of the original website, can require much more time to be correctly spidered and counted.
When to use a 301 Redirect:
- As a default because it is the preferred method.
- WWW vs Non-WWW
- A domain is permanently moved due to rebranding or being acquired.
- Pages being moved permanently
- Pages being replaced
- Duplicate pages
- Rewriting confusing URLs
- Merging similar pages
- This type of redirect tells search engines that a page or domain is “Moved Temporarily”
- Will not remove the old page from a search engine’s results
- Does not pass along any ranking power, however, they are often implemented incorrectly, so Google treats them as “soft 301s”. This means that some of the ranking power may eventually get passed along.
- Gets a user to the right location so that the website isn’t showing them a broken link, 404 page not found or an error page
When to use a 302 Redirect:
- If you have an ecommerce site, you would use a 302 redirect if a product is seasonal or out of stock.
- When you want to test a new page for client feedback
- You are fixing a website and need to detour users to a different page
- Promotional pages
What are the DO’s and DON’Ts of URL Redirection?
While there is a lot to be said about the positive effects of redirects, if they are not done correctly, the website that is being redirected can not only lose page ranking power but can end up incorrectly indexed, among many other things.
- Use only one or two steps to get to the correct URL.
- If a page has bad backlinks, instead of redirecting, drop the page with a 404 error page. The links will drop from the index.
- Test & retest your redirects for wrong or mistyped URLs.
- Do not rely on a 301 redirect for short term or last minute campaigns.
- Do not redirect all the pages of an old site directly to a new site’s homepage. This could cause a huge bounce rate and the site could lose relevancy in search traffic.
- Do not create loop redirect pages.
- Do not use a redirect of any kind from the old URL to the new URL if it has received a Google penalty.
Moving a website from one URL to another can be a tedious and drawn out task. Search technology is always changing and it is important to keep a website relevant even after a big move. Redirects were developed to help a website keep the page rankings have already been established. If you need the address of a website changed, either for a redesign or rebranding, sometimes the best bet is to find a great web developer to make sure everything goes smoothly.