URL redirection is a technical SEO implementation that can quickly become confusing and is often ignored altogether due to its complexity.
While to the human eye all URL redirections may appear equal, there are significant distinctions between their varying codes that cause search engines to treat them differently.
If a URL redirect is not handled properly, it can hurt your SEO. But don’t worry: In this article, we share URL redirect best practices. Let’s get started!
What is a URL redirect and why do we need it?
A URL redirect is a way of sending users and search engine crawlers to a new URL rather than to the originally requested URL.
There are many reasons that a website owner might want to set up a URL redirect, including:
- The website is moved to a new domain and thus its URLs are updated.
- The web page is retired and thus the respective URL is obsolete.
- The web page is under maintenance and therefore the website owner wants to send visitors to a different page temporarily.
Another common reason for setting a URL redirect is to allow access to a similar, misspelled, or mistyped URL. For example:
These may look similar, but actually only https://www.theegg.com/ is the true URL. We use 301 redirects to send visitors to the true URL if/when the other variations are entered.
What are 301 and 302 redirects?
When you open a web page, your browser sends a request to the website’s server. The numbers ‘301’ and ‘302’ are HTTP status codes that indicate the web server’s response to that browser request.
The HTTP status codes that start with 3 indicate redirection:
- 301 indicates that a web page is permanently redirected to another page.
- 302 indicates that a web page is temporarily redirected to another page.
SEO Best Practices for 301 and 302 Redirects
A 301 is the most search engine-friendly way to implement a permanent URL redirect.
With a 301 redirect, Google will pass most link equity (the value and authority of a link) from the old web page to the new one. Moreover, Google will remove the old page from its index and update its index with the new URL.
However, if your web page is to be redirected only temporarily (you will resume the original page in the near future), then a 302 redirect should be implemented.
With a 302 redirect, Google will anticipate the redirected URL being active again soon and will not update its index. The link value and authority of the redirected web page will be retained as well.
301 vs 302 Redirects
Both 301 and 302 redirects can help to retain and even improve your website’s SEO—when they are used correctly. Here is a short summary on when to use which type of redirect:
- Site migration to a new domain
- A new web page is created to replace the old one
- A/B testing of a web page for functionality or design
- Temporary maintenance and changes