Webmasters have invariably substituted 302 redirects for a 301 redirect and have caused issues for a website. Search engines handle these types of redirects differently and may need to determine if one was used by mistake. The wrong redirect can cause a loss of traffic to the website. Know the difference between 301 and 302 redirects and follow best practices to optimize website SEO performance.

What is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is used to make sure that search engines and users are sent to the correct page. A 301 status code is used when any page has been permanently moved to another location. Users will now see the new URL as it has replaced the old page. This will change the URL of the page when it shows in search engine results. For websites hosted on servers that run Apache, website developers or owners need to access the .htaccess file within the server. If your site is hosted on a server running other software, check with your hoster for more details.

When is a 301 Redirect Appropriate?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. This is not useful for temporary changes or instances of A/B testing. The 301 Redirect is used when:

  • Links to any outdated URLs need to be sent to your desired page. A case in point would be the merging of two websites.
  • There are several URLs used to access your site. Select a single URL as a canonical and preferred destination and use your 301 redirects to direct traffic to the preferred URL or the new one.
  • You've moved your site to a new domain name, and you want to make the transition from your old site to your new website as seamless as possible.
  • You are conducting an http-to-https migration.

Your previous page will be replaced and the new page will be shown in your search engine results with a 301 redirect.

What is a 302 Redirect?

A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect and redirects users and search engines to the desired page for a limited amount of time until it is removed. It may be shown as a 302 found (HTTP 1.1) or moved temporarily (HTTP 1.0).  A 302 redirect can be done using a meta tag or Javascript, rather than accessing server files and expending additional time and effort needed for a 301 redirect.

There are webmasters that use 302 redirects rather than 301 redirects. Some may hope to avoid the Google aging delay associated with a 301 redirect. This becomes an issue for Google that has to consider whether or not a 302 or 301 redirect was actually intended as they want to improve search engine experience and webmasters have regularly used a 302 redirect when a 301 redirect was appropriate. This can cause issues for search engine ranking and more. Problems such as continued indexing of the old URL and division of link popularity between the URLs can occur.

When Can a 302 Redirect Be Used?

There are times when a 302 redirect is useful. Add a 302 redirect for:

  • A/B testing of a web page for functionality or design.
  • Getting client feedback on a new page without impacting site ranking.
  • Updating a web page while providing viewers with a consistent experience.

302 redirects are temporary and used when webmasters need to assess performance or gather feedback. They are not to be used as a permanent solution.

How Do 301 and 302 Redirects Impact Your SEO?

What will happen to your “link juice” using 301 and 302? Matt Cutts in a video has said that use of 301 redirects will not create a loss in link juice. There are skeptics that claim that a 301 redirect may result in a 15 percent loss in “link juice.” When a 302 redirect is used there should be no impact to PageRank, Page Authority, and Traffic Value.Using a 302 redirect by mistake can cause confusion and negatively impact search engine visibility. Which redirect is better? Each redirect serves a different purpose. For a permanent change that will rank for SEO, a 301 redirect is necessary and understood by search engines.