Understanding 301 & 302 SEO Redirects

SEO redirects are directions or commands a site sends to crawlers, bots or visitors on what to do if they are requesting a specific domain, item or page. While it may sound simple, redirects can have a tremendous impact on your site and may waste valuable SEO authority as well as costing you money. Therefore, it is imperative that you are sending the appropriate directive in order to see a positive impact on your rankings, revenue and conversions.

301 redirect

Benefits of using Redirects

If you update your CMS platform, delete or move a page or move to a new domain, the user will not notice any change if you use a redirect. Sending the right redirect limit the amount of referral and Google organic traffic you may have lost. Your business won’t be affected whatsoever.

The other reason to use a redirect is that if you use the appropriate directive you can recover valuable SEO authority signals and maintain the ranking in case you need to make a change.

Why you need to use SEO Redirect

  • Purchasing an old domain with authority/links and you redirect to the current website
  • Redirecting your old website to a new domain
  • You combine two existing sites into one website
  • You have a new URL
  • You enable permalinks in case you use WordPress
  • You delete or move the old pages for services or products you no longer offer

Types of Redirects

There are three main types of redirects: 301 redirects, 302 redirects and Meta refresh. All of the three redirects indicated above differ slightly. Even so, you need to get them right. Otherwise, they can affect your SEO considerably. It will also have no effect on user experience and no significant impact on revenue or conversions.

301 Redirects

The reason why it is strongly recommended to use 301 redirects is that you won’t lose valuable SEO authority, even if you move your website or change URLs. This redirect is meant to be permanent. When you use multiple domains to your website, Google search engine often becomes confused. As a result, your ranking may drop. When they find the same page using more than one URL, Google might filter out one listing. But you won’t be able to know which listing they have decided to do away with.

There are many good reasons why people attach multiple domains to their main website. The first reason why they do this is to help users who may type a domain name with spelling errors. It is also done to prevent competitors from using the same or something very close to domain name.

301 redirects are considered to be the best practice. It enables you to attach multiple domain names to a single site. You will also be able to retain SEO authority if you want to move a page to a new location permanently.

# Redirect individual files
RewriteEngine on
Redirect 301 /oldfile.htm /newfile.htm

# Redirect an old domain to a new domain
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^olddomain.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.olddomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.newdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

# Force www. version of domain to be used
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

# Force non www. version of domain to be used
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.example.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://example.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

# Redirect all files with certain extension
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .php$
RewriteRule ^(.*).php$ /$1.htm [R=301,L]

# Redirect all URL's which contains a pattern/folder
# .htaccess wildcard redirect
RewriteEngine on
RedirectMatch 301 ^/products/.*$ /15-shop/


302 Redirects

While 301 redirects means that a page or site has been moved to a new location permanently, 302 redirects means that the move is just temporary. There are not too many reasons why you should use 302 redirects. It may not provide any SEO benefit. In fact, it can lead to duplicate content problems because Google tends to maintain older or deleted pages in its index. It is much more recommended to move pages permanently. With that said, it is far easier to make 302 redirects than 301 redirects. You can use a Meta tag or JavaScript to create 302 redirects. If you are using Apache servers to create 302s, you will need special commands in your .htaccess file.

Most people often do not understand the difference between 301s and 302s. They usually use 302s when they actually mean 301s. This practice may result in duplicate contents, reducing search rankings. Therefore, the best practice is to use 301s. Moving a page temporary is quite risky. So why take a chance?

307 Redirects

Just like 302s, 307s is a temporary redirect. It is actually the successor of 302 redirects. Most major search engines will assume it is 302. This should only be used if the content is moved temporarily. According to experts, it is best to stick to 302 if you want to move your site temporarily.

Meta Refresh

Meta refresh is an HTML coding that automatically redirects a visitor to a new page after a few seconds. Meta refresh tags are usually used when website owners have changed the address of their site but want visitors to continue visiting the site with the old address. Redirect page is therefore the page containing the Meta refresh tag.

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://www.newdomain.com/" />

If you own a website that visitors have been using for a long time and you suddenly change the location and the name of the webpage, it is highly advised to make the old page a redirect page using a Meta Refresh tag. Or else, people familiar with the original page will get a message saying something like this “404 (Page Not Found)”.

What are the SEO Best Practices?

With Google churning out updates on a regular basis, the SEO practices have seen a big change in the past few years. There is no place for link buying, inconsistent link building techniques and other illogical SEO practices.

Since redirecting from one URL to another has become a common practice, it is very important to observe best SEO practices when doing this. The options for doing this are manifold. However, the 301 redirects remains the highly recommended technique. It informs the search engine and browsers that the page has been moved permanently. Search engine bots will automatically know that even the URL of the page has change.

It is worth noting that it may take search engine bots some time to discover that a page has been moved so that it can maintain its rankings and reputation.

Other options such as 302, 307 and Meta refreshes are not always recommended. They are considered to be poor alternatives, as they rarely pass search engine value and rankings. It may not be easy to transfer content when content is moved from a new domain or when the whole website changes its domain. Due to suspicion by Google and abuse by spam bots, 301 redirects between domains may require an extra time to be properly indexed and trusted.

seo redirects

Final Thoughts

There are several guides on how to create SEO redirects online. If you are not sure of what you are doing, hire a developer who understands the issue and who can do it right the first time. Redirects can easily be checked using the header information. If you need help with what your URL returns as the header information, check this tool out.

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