So you got yourself a new domain that you want to use in the future. The problem is getting customers to go from your old website to the new one.
But there’s a solution called a redirect.
However, there are different types of redirects, namely a 301 and a 302 redirect. It’s of utmost importance to know which one to use, otherwise the wanted results may be left trailing in the dust.
So let’s get into it.
What is a 301 Redirect?
When you see the HTTP status code 301, that’s an indication that a web page has been moved permanently. It works like this.
An end-user or customer types in or clicks on your existing website or page. The existing 301 redirect command will automatically change the request, resulting in the end-user or customer being immediately sent to the new destination. In the process, the new address will be noted by the browser cache.
In case you are wondering, there are specific instances in which you would want to use the 301 redirect. Those instances would include:
- When switching your website from HTTP to HTTPS
- When you intend to permanently migrate your content from an old domain to a new domain
- Should you want to permanently change the URL structure of your existing website
- When you are merging multiple websites/pages from existing websites to a new singular website
- When trying to fix duplicate content issues related to the non-www or www prefixes
As you can see from this list, all of these are changes you would want to make permanently.
It is typically added via code into the .htaccess file like this:
RewriteRule ^domain\.com$ /domainnew.com? [L,R=301]
What is a 302 Redirect?
It’s far less common to use a 302 redirect.
Why? It’s not often that you would want to make destination changes that are going to be temporary or short-lived. Before you go with a 302 redirect, you should first assess the intent of your change. Here is a list of instances in which a 302 redirect would be the right call:
- You are posting special content or a promotion that will only be valid for a limited time (a special temporary use website or page)
- You are attempting to test two possible versions of the same website or page
- You are creating web pages that are directed to specific language speakers or locations
- You are requesting feedback regarding a new page but don’t want to change the SEO on the existing page
To be clear, the 302 redirect is the right option if you intend to maintain the old website or page for further use in the future.
Will a 301 Redirect or 302 Redirect affect SEO?
Search engines are programmed to recognize 301 redirects as permanent changes. When it sees that coding, the search engine knows it needs to connect the website or page’s current SEO ranking to the new location.
A 301 will subsequently pass most of the link equity to the new target.
Conversely, a 302 redirect indicates to search engines that the change is temporary and the old ranking on the old content needs to be maintained going forward.
Beware: search engines can get confused if the wrong redirect is used.
What Results From Search Engine Confusion?
First, a search engine might stop ranking your website/page because of the confusion. In the case of Google, the confusion might trigger what they call the Google aging delay. That could result in the website falling completely out of Google’s rankings for as long as a year.
The Google aging delay matters to you because Google wants to keep new websites from disproportionately affecting the SEO rankings in the early days of the new website’s existence.
That only serves to distort the numbers, which causes distorted results for all websites that are using similar SEO. The delay is also intended as a way to discourage website owners from changing their URLs back and forth simply to increase traffic to their websites. The delay serves as a demotivator
So please make sure to read our How to 301 – Guide to be one the safe side.
BTW: You should know why Google treats 301 and 302 redirects differently. They do this because name and address changes are protected by Google until the platform can confirm the legitimacy of the business under the new website.
Things to Consider When Contemplating the Use of a 301 or 302 Redirect
As you contemplate which redirect will best meet your needs, there are things you should consider.
Of course, you’ll be using a 301 redirect when you know the change is permanent and the 302 redirect when you plan on using the old website again in the near future.
The first thing to consider is how the choice will affect end-users. These are the folks who are trying to get at your content. For the most part, the use of a 301 or 302 redirect will appear seamless to end users. They will type in or click on the existing URL and let that take them right to where the programming directs them. The only way they would know they have been redirected would be if you chose to tell them so on the landing page.
Keep in mind, Search engines tend to handle 302 redirects very quickly. Conversely, 301 redirects are handled more methodically, causing your ranking to encounter the aforementioned delays. This matter because you don’t want to accidentally use a 301 redirect when you intended to use the other option. Doing so would likely result in you needing to return back to the old URL. In the confusion, search engines could take months to recognize the changes.
The Bottom Line
There is nothing wrong with you making changes to your website or websites and subsequently redirecting customers to the new content. However, you want to proceed with caution to ensure you get the results you want and expect.
Always remember, you need to use 301 redirects when you know your changes are going to be permanent and the old location will be obsolete.
If you want to maintain the integrity and rankings of the old website, you’ll want to use the 302 redirects. That will allow you to send end-users to the new location until you are ready to revert back to the original location. The 302 redirect option is perfectly suited for things like special sale promotions.
Before you apply any redirects, be sure to check and recheck the one you are using. Mistakes can be costly when you use the wrong option. If issues arise with your SEO rankings after applying a redirect, you might want to look at you programming and see if you used the wrong redirect. Otherwise, you’ll want to show a little patience as the search engines work to adapt to the new content.