At the core, website redirects are a fairly simple concept: a reader clicks through to a page on your site and is automatically sent to a different—but ideally relevant—page instead. There are a lot of common reasons you might want to do this, including when you delete old pages, redesign your website, or transfer or merge old sites.
However, even though the concept is simple, it can all get a little complicated in practice. Depending on your goals, there are several different ways you can choose to redirect a page. While your readers might not notice any major differences between redirection options from their end, search engines will. This means that, if you use the wrong kind of redirect for the job, it can ultimately have a big, bad impact on your SEO, traffic, and website rankings.
Don’t make a preventable mistake that will hurt you in the long run. If you care about your SEO, it really is important to get your redirects right—so make sure you know how to mind your 301s and 302s.
You have likely used 301 redirects many times without even realizing it. A 301 redirect is used when you permanently want to forward traffic from one page to another. Search engines recognize these redirects and will attempt to index the content on the new page while ignoring content on the old page. Search engines will respond to a 301 redirect by treating it as a permanent change to the URL for the page, transferring all your “link juice” and page authority along with it. You can even make changes to where the permanent redirect points later, without causing a bunch of problems for your website. These are all good things—and the reason why 301 redirects are recommended so frequently when you need to make a change.
In practice, you might use a permanent 301 redirect for a single page on your site, or you might create many 301 redirects to move your entire website to a new domain. As an example, if you are a Foster Web Marketing client and delete a page on your website, DSS will allow you to create a 301 redirect to a relevant page so that you don't lose any search juice in the process. This helps search engines figure out where your content is located and greatly reduces any traffic loss you might experience in a domain name change. As another common example, every time you use a link shortener, like bit.ly, ow.ly or goo.gl, you are creating a 301 redirect. These short links permanently forward users to the page you want them to view while still allowing you to track statistics on clicks.
Although the end result looks similar from a user perspective, 302 redirects are temporary and largely left alone by search engines. While a 302 redirect will send the user ahead to the new URL, just like a 301 redirect, your page authority and rankings are not transferred from original page. In fact, the search engines will continue to index the old page, even though users are transferred on.
If you use a 302 redirect when you need a 301 redirect, you run the real risk of harming your SEO. A 302 redirect essentially tells search engines to keep indexing the old page, even if you don’t really want to update it any longer or keep it around. This means that you could end up running into problems with search engines indexing duplicate content between the old page and the new page, and you also lose the benefit of passing your “link juice” on to the new page. It can even ultimately create problems with your search visibility, as search engines become confused about what pages to index or serve to users.
However, there are times when it makes perfect sense to use a 302 redirect. If you plan to use it temporarily—like it’s meant to be used—and eventually point traffic back to the original page, then it’s a great solution. For example, it’s a great choice if you’re redesigning a site, temporarily shutting down a site, or need to test a page without affecting your rankings. The important thing to keep in mind is that 302 redirects should always be temporary and carefully chosen solutions to temporary problems.
Making Sense of Redirects and Their Impact on Your SEO
Are you still feeling a little confused about how to use redirects or how to choose the best fit for your goals? If you have questions about the best practices for redirecting URLs, or if you need help understanding how to use redirects in DSS, give the friendly team at Foster Web Marketing a call at 888-886-0939.