When to Use a 301 vs. 302 Redirect – SEO Tip Week 35

Written on September 2, 2007 – 9:51 am | by Chris Alexander |

SEO TipsThere are two types of redirects you can use, a 301 and a 302. These numbers refer to the HTTP Status Code returned by the server for a given URL. A 301 redirect tells the search engine that the page has moved permanently to the new URL. A 302 redirect tells the search engine that the move is only temporary, and you may decide to show content at the original location in the future without a redirect.

301 Redirects
All three major search engines handle 301 redirects the same, that is to say they ignore the original URL and instead index the destination URL. For example, www.beekerfurniture.com uses a 301 redirect to www.hendersonsfurniture.com and Google, MSN and Yahoo all return the result www.hendersonsfurniture.com when searching for “beeker furniture”. The word beeker doesn’t appear anywhere on the hendersonsfurniture.com site, and a site search in Google shows that only the home page has any relevance for the word. Clicking on the Cached link in the site search results further shows that the word only exists in links pointing to the site, “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: beeker.” Those links Google is referring to are actually pointing to www.beekerfurniture.com and the 301 redirect is passing along the relevance of the word beeker to hendersonsfurniture.com.

301 redirects can be very powerful when you redesign your site and the URLs change, move to a different domain, acquire a new domain, or implement a URL rewrite. In most cases, this is the type of redirect you want to use because you know exactly how the search engines will respond.

302 Redirects
The three major engines handle 302 redirects very differently, and because of this 302s are typically not recommended.

Google treats 302 redirects differently depending if they are on-domain or off-domain. An example of an on-domain redirect is athletics.mlb.com which uses a 302 redirect to http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=oak. If you search for “oakland a’s” in Google you will see that athletics.mlb.com is displayed in the results because links point to that URL, which in turn uses a 302 redirect to the destination page. This is a great example where 302 redirects can be used effectively, since the shorter URL looks much more enticing in the results pages.

Off-domain 302 redirects would be ripe for hijacking situations if treated the same way. Because of this, in most cases, Google will treat off-domain 302 redirects like 301s, where they will ignore the original URL and instead index the destination URL. I say most cases because Google will sometimes determine that the 302 is legitimate & index the original URL instead. An example of an off-domain redirect is pets.roanoke.com which uses a 302 redirect to a third-party site http://www.gadzoo.com/roanoke/pets.aspx. In this case, Google determined that this was a legitimate use of a 302 redirect and displays pets.roanoke.com when searching for “pets roanoke”.

Pets Roanoke Google Search

MSN treats 302 redirects exactly how it treats 301 redirects, it will always ignore the original URL and instead index the destination URL. A search for “oakland a’s” in MSN shows the URL oakland.athletics.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=oak in its results. And a search for “pets roanoke” shows www.gadzoo.com/roanoke/pets.aspx in its results.

Yahoo takes the same stance that MSN takes, except that they reserve the right to make exceptions in handling redirects. A search for “oakland a’s” in Yahoo shows the URL www.oaklandathletics.com in its results. (www.oaklandathletics.com also uses a 302 redirect to http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=oak) But a search for “pets roanoke” shows www.gadzoo.com/roanoke/pets.aspx in its results.

Pets Roanoke Yahoo Search

There are very few times where you actually want a 302 redirect, although they are used more often than 301s merely because most people don’t know the difference. 302 redirects are often the default redirect in website control panels, and JavaScript or Meta redirects will produce a 302 status as well. In certain situations however, 302 redirects work wonders.

As with all our tips, please use them responsibly. When in doubt, use a 301 redirct.

Chris Alexander previously worked at various technology consulting firms. In late 2003 he decided to strike out with Shell and formed Big Oak. Their partnership has allowed them to work in collaboration while having the freedom to concentrate on their core interests in the field of online marketing.

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  1. 25 Responses to “When to Use a 301 vs. 302 Redirect – SEO Tip Week 35”

  2. By DNL on Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

    I think there is a small mistake in your post regarding the pet 302 redirect..you say it shows the old site, but it shows the redirected to site..which is ok and what you explained before.
    Maybe you can modify that because is a bit confusing
    thanks for the useful post
    Marius,

  3. By Chris Alexander on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    Images were added to illustrate Google & Yahoo handling 302 redirects for the pets.roanoke.com subdomain w/ redirect.

  4. By Jumpions on Jan 16, 2008 | Reply

    I had a 302 redirect for some time on my site but I was doing fine with Google. Do you know cases when Google treated 302 redirects in the wrong way?

  5. By Chris Alexander on Jan 17, 2008 | Reply

    Google treats 302 redirects as they see fit, so you’re giving them the choice of how to interpret it.

  6. By DNL on Jan 17, 2008 | Reply

    I am bit unsure about 302 redirects. Let’s say I redirect my domain with 302 to a bigger site with bigger traffic and all that. I am talking about how Google treats 302 redirects. So let’s say my site is showing up in the searches(the bad site)- like in the Oakland example. People will see my site listed but when they click they will get to the good site due to the 302 redirect. Or I am missing something here and the problem with 302 redirects was not about stealing traffic?
    Thanks

  7. By ArticlesGarage on Feb 18, 2008 | Reply

    Using a meta refresh what header will return?

  8. By Chris Alexander on Feb 20, 2008 | Reply

    Meta refresh technically is neither a 301 nor a 302 redirect. It tells the browser to reload the page after a certain interval. Search engines sometimes interpret meta refresh with a 0 second reload as a 301 & anything longer as a 302. But this isn’t an ideal way to implement redirects because you’re giving control of how they are interpreted to the individual search engine.

  9. By Luke on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    What about when you have a site that has people with a profile who post, list, sell, a certain type of item but their activites come and go.

    I have a page for their profile and it lists all the things they are posting, listing selling etc.

    Say for a period they have sold out of all their t-shirts, or no longer have artcles live so they currently have a blank profile page, I want to redirect the users to a similiar type of users profile page instead.

    Because I know when their stocks come back in, or they start writing again etc etc the profile will be full again I don’t want to permantly redirect people away from their page, only whilst it is empty. Is this a legitimate time where a 302 redirect would actually be the correct solution?

    Cheers
    Luke

  10. By Chris Alexander on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Luke,

    That’s the perfect use of a 302 redirect & the reason they exist. You’re only temporarily redirecting that URL and it will eventually have its own content again in the future.

  11. By Arun on Jun 20, 2008 | Reply

    Hello

    wisely describe 301 and 302 redirection method.

    I am bit confuse with this status:
    “HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Permanently =>
    Server => Microsoft-IIS/5.0″

    Could please describe. what this status indicate is this 301 or 302 Redirection.

    Thanks in advance
    Arun

  12. By Chris Alexander on Jun 20, 2008 | Reply

    A 301 means a permanent redirection, a 302 means a temporary one. The article above shows how this may be interpreted differently by Google, Yahoo & MSN.

    If you’re getting a status of “302 Moved Permanently” from your server, then something is probably wrong with your server, or the software running on it. That’s not a valid status code.

    You can see the correct HTTP/1.1 Status Code Definitions at http://www.w3.org.

  13. By Jivaldi on Jul 7, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks Chris – I operate a marketing company and was looking for a good simple article online to explain this (301 vs. 302) to a client from someone other than us – otherwise they think we are trying to ‘pitch’ them something that they don’t need.

  14. By Rick Lim on Aug 23, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for this tutorial. I had been wondering how to do that until i read this.

  15. By AlchemyV on Oct 10, 2008 | Reply

    Ok, but what about when you want to preserve a load of site URLs sitting in the index prior to a website redsign?

    The client wants to get the content rewritten whilst the site gets redesigned and the urls get removed.

    I think 302 could be used to redirect legacy urls point to the root until the content gets rewritten and uploaded and then 301 redirect to the new pages. Comments anyone?

  16. By John on Oct 16, 2008 | Reply

    Hello Chris, I had a situation in August this year where one of my site’s hosting arrangements was abruptly terminated. Not knowing much of any of this stuff, I went to my GoDaddy control panel and believe I did a 302 redirct to a sibling site to keep some retention of the traffic. 3 weeks passed by before I had a replacement site up, and I removed the 302. However, 6 weeks later Google is still failing to recognize http://www.firstdomain.com/ as the proper destination URL.

    Have I missed some signal I must send to Google to get the first URL back into good standing? Thanks!

  17. By Chris Alexander on Oct 16, 2008 | Reply

    Hello John,

    Are you sure you didn’t do a 301 (permanent) redirect by mistake? That sounds like how I would expect a 301 to act. And you can do a 301 or a 302 within GoDaddy’s control panel.

    Do you have your site verified in Google Webmaster Tools? http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ If not do so. Logging into that may give you some insight into the problem. You may have to use Google’s reconsideration request, explain the situation & ask if they can fix the problem.

    Building some new links to http://www.firstdomain.com might also help bring it back correctly.

  18. By John on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    Hello Chris, I don’t know for certain whether the redirect was a 301 or 302. The new side with the firstdomain is verified in Google’s webmaster tools. I’ve also built a good number of new links during the past month to no avail.

    What I’ve read, it seems that there are a lot of spammers out there wreaking havoc on unsuspecting sites using redirects. Thus, Google’s approach to redircts seems to be more rigid.

    I’ll head for the Reconsideration Request next.

    Thanks!

  19. By jim on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

    Chris, regarding off domain 302s. We have two scenarios that are concerned may hurt us:

    1) Domains are purchased by our franchisees and then redirected by the registrar to their webpage on our website using a 302. BTW, we have talked with GoDaddy and they state that they only do 302 redirects.

    2) Many third party sites use scripts that count traffic delivered to our pages, but force a 302.

    Thanks for any insight that you can provide.

  20. By Shell Harris on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

    Jim, Here at Big Oak we use Godaddy as our host and I know they do 301 redirects as we have used this option before. 302s aren’t as good as 301 for passing the authority of the previous site, but if you can’t control the third-party site you have to settle for what you can get. I did a screen shot and you can see the 301 redirect option clearly. Hope this helps. If you need further help, you can call us (804) 741-6776 and we can consult with you for an hourly rate.

  21. By Peter Donoghue on Nov 1, 2008 | Reply

    My site relates to running courses on public speaking and its business version, presentation skills. I do ok in Google for most of it, but not for the highly competitive ‘public speaking’. So I bought the domain http://www.public-speaking.co.nz as Google doesn’t care about the hyphen and I figured that using it to direct traffic to the main site would help my ‘public speaking’ Google position. Then I start to read about 301s and 302s and the dangers of simply setting my new domain to the main website. So here is what I am trying to understand.
    Which of these if any will help me or hinder me to get better Google position for ‘public speaking’ …

    1. Direct the new domain to the home page as is?
    2. Direct it to an additional ‘Home page’ with rearranged content but all the same menu links?
    3. 301 it?
    4. 302 it?
    .. and which of these if any will help me or hinder me to get better Google position for ‘public speaking’?
    Thanks in advance .. if anyone wants my course handouts on effective speaking, email the site and I’ll send them to you. (I’m not collecting addresses .. I just appreciate the opportunity to seek your help!)
    Cheers

  22. By Ray on Feb 20, 2009 | Reply

    I think it would be wise to stick with the 301 redirect instead if needed and avoid 302 due to the fact that different search engines treat it differently.

  23. By Joy on Mar 12, 2009 | Reply

    Thanks for explaining the difference. Not many people know the difference which has such big implications.

  24. By Amir W on Jul 8, 2009 | Reply

    Your advice about 301 or 302 here would be welcomed.

    My international website for collectors supports many different languages and I’ve implemented the following:

    * If you have no cookie around (first page of the first visit) your language will be set by the language of your first visited link (for example: colnect.com/es/coins will start with Spanish) or by your location (for example: colnect.com/coins will start with a language determined by your IP).
    * If you have a cookie (thus a language has been set), all URLs will be redirected to your language. So if you’ve selected German and go to the Spanish link above, you’ll be redirected to colnect.com/de/coins

    Currently, these redirections use 302 since I fear 301 would create browser problems (redirect loop) when you change the language.

    What’s your take on it?

    Mind that sometime I publish outside links without the language part so that they’ll be set by the user’s location.

  25. By online stepping stones on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

    Thanks for the article. Need to complete a large 301 redirect for one of my clients and your article was a very good refresher.

  26. By Lukas Klamm on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

    Thanks! This article answers my question exactly to the point. A 301 redirect shows the “new” URL in search results (“hides” the original request) while a 302 redirect also points to the new location – but shows the OLD/original URL in search results .. nice for short URLs but maybe produces duplicate content.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

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This SEO blog is provided by Big Oak SEO, a SEO Company. Most blog posts are related to search engine optimization, short reviews, SEO tips and increasing site conversions. Email us at contact@bigoakinc.com or give us a call 804-741-6776 to see how we can help your company. More

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