301 vs 302 Redirect: How to Choose the Right One
There are two main types of redirects; a 301 and a 302. It’s important to understand when and why to use these so you don’t negatively impact your SEO and rankings when you don’t need to.
Comparing a 301 vs 302 redirect is simple when you understand what these are and how to use them correctly. Continue reading below to ensure you don’t make the wrong choice and hurt your chances of ranking for months or even years.
What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. This is a server response that tells Google and users that the URL they requested has been moved to a new location, and visitors will automatically be directed to that URL.
When you 301 redirect to a new page, it passes all of the link juice and ranking power to the new page, so you want to make sure you’re certain that this is a permanent change before doing a 301 redirect.
If you decide not to do a redirect, search engines may treat the two pages as duplicate content, which can hurt your rankings as well.
301 redirects also help retain user traffic when website content is moved or a site is restructured, ensuring a seamless user experience. Site owners must use 301 redirects when modifying site structure or deleting pages to avoid displaying 404 error pages to visitors.
When to Use a 301 Redirect?
This is a permanent redirect, so you’ll only use it when the original URL is no longer in use.
This can happen for several reasons:
Site Redesign – If you’re changing your website design or switching to a new platform, you may want to use a 301 redirect to ensure that users find your latest design.
Merging Pages – Sometimes, people combine two similar pages into one. In that case, you’ll use a 301 redirect from one of the pages to make sure that everyone lands on the same page.
Changing a URL – If you change a URL, you’ll want to redirect all the old traffic to the new page otherwise they’ll likely end up with a 404 error page.
Deleting Pages – When you remove pages from your website, people can still find the page if it’s in their history or they have it saved for any reason. You’ll want to make sure to have a 301 redirect for the users but also for search engines and any backlinks you might have pointing to the old page.
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS – HTTPS is a more secure website signature but it can mess up the URL of your site. So, you’ll want to have a 301 redirect in place from the HTTP to the HTTPS URL if this is the case.
What is a 302 Redirect?
In this 301 vs 302 redirect guide, we also want to cover the non-permanent redirect. This is called a 302 redirect. It’s temporary and designed to inform browser and search engines that the search result has been temporarily moved but will return to its original location again in the future.
Importantly, a 302 redirect does not pass the SEO ranking power from the original page to the new one like a 301 redirect does.
This is because, from an SEO perspective, search engines still consider the original URL the primary one, and they expect the original URL to be re-established eventually.
When to Use a 302 Redirect?
This is a temporary redirect, so you should only use it when you don’t intend to remove the web page entirely. There are a number of reasons why this can be the case:
Content Changes – If you’re updating a piece of content or adding some seasonal or promotional phase into the content, you’ll want to redirect people away from the original page to the new one temporarily until the seasonal content is no longer relevant.
Site Maintenance – If your website is under maintenance, you can direct people to a placeholder page explaining that or to a different page that provides them with a similar result. Just make sure that you’re sending users to a relevant page that helps them understand why they’ve been redirected.
A/B Testing – A 302 redirect is commonly used for split testing web pages. You can send the traffic to a different version of your website to see if it performs as good or better than the original. If it does, you may want to use a 301 redirect to permanently send the traffic to the new page.
301 vs 302 Redirect Impact on SEO
One major factor to consider when stacking a 301 vs 302 redirect is the Google Aging Delay or the “sandbox” as SEOs know it. This is the initial phase that many believe a website has to go through before Google will rank any content.
It’s believed that Google restricts brand-new websites from ranking to promote quality and prevent SEOs from gaming the system and building out pieces of content that rank quickly but provide no value.
This is an important consideration when choosing the right redirect.
Since a 301 redirect is permanent, you have a higher chance of being affected by the sandbox since you’re basically creating an entirely new web page.
When you move content permanently, a 301 redirect helps ensure search engines understand this change, update their indexing accordingly, and transfer the link equity and ranking power of the old URL to the new one.
You’ll want to be absolutely certain that the change is permanent before undergoing a 301 because it can have a temporarily negative impact on your rankings.
Since a 302 redirect does not pass the same level of SEO value to the new URL, search engines will still consider the original URL as the primary one because it is expected to become active again.
Because of this, the link equity and ranking power may not fully transfer to the new URL, potentially affecting its SEO performance.
All in all, both of these redirects can have a negative impact on your SEO but it’s important to choose the right one for the situation to minimize the impact.
301 vs 302 Redirect Impact on UX
Both types of redirects can have a positive or negative impact on user experience depending on how you use them. These are essential for maintaining a positive UX during significant website changes.
If you’ve moved content permanently, a 301 redirect ensures users who have bookmarked the old URL or clicked on an old link will still land on the relevant page, not an error page. This seamless navigation retains user trust and keeps bounce rates low.
302s are useful because they display a relevant page even if it’s just a placeholder telling the user that the page has temporarily been moved. The best choice for a 302 is to have a new page in place so the user’s experience is not interrupted in any way.
A misuse of 302 redirects for permanent URL changes can lead to user confusion if the old URL keeps appearing in search results.
Similarly, if a 301 redirect leads to irrelevant content, it can frustrate users and increase bounce rates. It’s crucial to use the correct type of redirect based on the nature of the change – temporary or permanent.
Comparing a 301 vs 302 redirect requires you to understand the reasons why we choose a permanent redirect vs temporary redirect. Choosing the right one is essential for both user experience and SEO impact.
Keep in mind that redirects can have a severe impact on any backlinks or internal links you have for your website.
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