Redirect Types: Basics & SEO Considerations

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Updated 4/29/2024

Many types of redirects exist, each with their own purpose and considerations. This guide covers the options and how to use them.

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Redirect Basics

A redirect is a way to send users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested. Think of it as a detour sign on the internet highway, guiding traffic to the correct destination.

When a redirect is implemented, the server tells the browser, “Hey, the content you’re looking for isn’t here anymore, but I can take you to where it is.”

Redirects maintain a smooth user experience and play a significant role in search engine optimization (SEO). They help preserve SEO value when a page location changes, ensuring a site’s rankings and traffic are minimally affected by reorganization or updates.

There are several kinds of redirects, each serving a specific purpose. Choosing the right one for the job is essential for user experience and SEO health.

Types of Redirects

301 Moved Permanently

The 301 redirect is the digital equivalent of a “change of address” form for websites. Technically, it’s an HTTP status code that tells browsers and search engines that a page has permanently moved to a new location. When a user or search engine lands on the original URL, they’re redirected to the new one.

From an SEO perspective, the 301 is a powerhouse. It transfers the majority of the original page’s search rankings and authority to the new URL, transferring the page’s reputation and history to a new address.

Whenever you’re making a permanent change to a page’s location on the web, a 301 redirect is the best tool for a smooth transition.

When to Use a 301

  • Permanent URL Changes: If you’re restructuring your website and changing URLs, 301 redirects will guide users to the new pages without confusion.
  • Moving to a New Domain: If you’re rebranding or switching to a new domain, a 301 redirect will help retain your existing search engine rankings, though traffic loss is usually expected. (It should be fine!)
  • Merging Two Websites: When consolidating websites, use 301s to direct traffic and search engines from pages on the old site to relevant pages on the new site.

302 Found

The 302 redirect is like putting up a “temporarily relocated” sign on your website. When someone visits the original URL, they are automatically taken to the new address, but with the understanding that this change is not permanent.

Regarding SEO, a 302 redirect is more of a short-term solution. It tells search engines to keep the original URL in their index because the move is only temporary.

When to Use a 302

  • Temporary Content Relocation: A 302 redirect is ideal if you’re updating or performing maintenance on a webpage and need to temporarily shift traffic to another page.
  • A/B Testing: When testing out new page layouts or content to see which performs better, you can temporarily route traffic to different page versions.
  • Handling Seasonal Promotions: For time-limited events like sales or holiday content, a 302 can temporarily redirect users to these pages and revert once the promotion ends.

303 See Other

The 303 redirect is a unique code akin to a friendly guide redirecting you to a different but related destination.

When a user attempts to access a specific URL, the 303 redirect intervenes and guides them to a new location. However, unlike the 301 or 302 redirects, the 303 is specifically used in response to form submissions or scripts.

The 303 redirect improves user interaction flow, particularly when user inputs and sequential actions are involved. It enhances user experience by ensuring smooth transitions and avoiding common issues like duplicate form submissions.

Key Characteristics

  • Post-Submission Redirect: After submitting a form on a website, a 303 redirect can prevent duplicate submissions by redirecting to a new page, usually a confirmation or thank-you page.
  • Method Conversion: It converts the HTTP method from POST to GET. This means that after the initial data submission (POST), the 303 redirect will guide the user to a new URL using a GET request, ensuring that refreshing or bookmarking the page won’t resubmit the form.
  • Not for SEO: The 303 redirect is not typically used for SEO purposes. It’s more about improving user experience and server functionality. Search engines generally won’t transfer page ranking or SEO value to the redirected page with 303s.

When to Use a 303

  • Form Interaction Handling: To prevent double submissions of forms like registration forms, contact forms, or payment gateways. After submitting the form, users are redirected to a different page, ensuring a refresh doesn’t cause duplicate submissions.
  • Sequential Process Steps: In multi-step processes like online quizzes or surveys, where each step leads to another, using a 303 redirect can smoothly transition the user from one step to the next without the risk of resubmitting data.

307 Temporary Redirect

The 307 redirect is used in specific situations. Imagine you have a webpage, but for some reason, you need to temporarily send visitors to a different URL. This could be due to maintenance, content updates, or other temporary circumstances.

A 307 tells browsers and search engines that this change is only for a short time, and they should keep checking the original URL in the future.

When to Use a 307

  • During Website Maintenance: If you’re updating your site and want users to be redirected to another page temporarily.
  • A/B Testing: You might temporarily redirect some traffic to test different web page versions.
  • Load Balancing: To manage website traffic and ensure a smooth user experience, particularly during high-traffic periods.

307 vs. 302: Which to Use?

You may think that a 307 sounds much like a 302. You’re right! They’re both temporary redirects. However, they have different methods and use cases.

307

Use a 307 Temporary Redirect when temporarily redirecting a webpage while ensuring the request method (like GET or POST) remains unchanged.

This is important for situations like form submissions or API calls where changing the method could create errors or unexpected behavior.

Chances are, you won’t be handling 307 redirects unless you’re a skilled web developer or software engineer. Most of the time, it’s better to use 302s.

302

Opt for a 302 for general temporary redirects where maintaining the original request method isn’t essential. It’s widely used in web browsing for short-term redirects and is more flexible in changing the request method.

308 Permanent Redirect

A 308 redirect should permanently move a webpage or resource to a new URL. Unlike temporary 307 redirects, a 308 indicates that the original URL will no longer be used and that all future requests should be directed to the new URL.

It’s similar to the more common 301, but with a key difference: it maintains the original request method (POST, GET, etc.) without allowing it to change.

308 vs 301: Which to Use?

Both 308 and 301 are permanent redirects, but they have key distinctions and applications for websites.

308

Use this when permanently redirecting a request to a new URL, and ensure that the original request method (POST, GET, etc.) is preserved.

This is particularly important for requests where the method carries significant information, like form submissions or API requests.

However, there are rare occasions when you should use a 308. Most SEOs prefer 301 redirects, which are more common and typically easier to create.

301

Use for most cases. 301 redirects should do you just fine for general purposes.

308s are only necessary when you want to guarantee the request method. They’re for avoiding issues with form submissions, where changing a POST to a GET could result in data loss or errors. This is pretty rare for most webmasters.

Most Common Redirect Types

While there are many kinds, most webmasters and SEOs will only interact with a select few, mainly 301s and occasionally 302s. Here’s a summary:

  1. 301: Used when a page has permanently moved to a new URL. It passes most of the SEO value from the old URL to the new one. The best option for most redirects.
  2. 302: Applied when a page is temporarily moved or under maintenance. It does not pass SEO value as the move is not permanent.
  3. 303: Used after form submissions to prevent duplicate submissions on refresh. It forces the browser to use the GET method for the new location.

You’ll likely only ever need to manage 301 and 302 redirects. Some web developers might use 303 redirects, which aren’t essential for most site updates and content management.

Best Practices for Redirects

Redirects are an essential part of website management and SEO strategy. Here are some tips for using and maintaining them:

  1. Use 301 Redirects for Permanent Changes: This is crucial for SEO as it transfers most of the original page’s link equity to the new page.
  2. Avoid Redirect Chains: Limit redirect chains, or sequential redirects. Each redirect can cause a slight delay in page loading and potentially dilute link equity.
  3. Use 302 Redirects for Temporary Changes: It tells search engines that the original page should retain its SEO value and ranking. Try to be quick about the updates, as users and search engines might devalue the page if it’s “temporarily” moved for too long.
  4. Monitor Redirects Regularly: Check your redirects regularly to ensure they function correctly. Use SEO tools to audit and identify broken redirects or redirect chains.
  5. Redirect to Relevant Pages: Ensure the new page provides similar content or serves the same intent as the original. This maintains user experience and helps with search engine rankings.
  6. Avoid Redirecting to the Homepage by Default: Search engines may frown upon redirecting all old pages to the homepage. It is better to redirect to a relevant category or a custom 404 page.
  7. Document Your Redirects: Record any redirects, including the original and new URLs. This documentation is invaluable for troubleshooting and future site audits.

Further Resources

For more technical details on redirects, see Mozilla’s documentation on redirection messages. They get further into the specifics and cover other HTTP response codes. A great resource for web developers and SEO professionals.

Bottom Line

While there are many types of redirects, you should only need to be familiar with 301s and 302s for most site maintenance. Other redirect types are available for specific needs, but only in-depth web developers might need to know them.

301 redirects are the best for SEO, as they signal that search engines should change their listing to the redirected page. 302s are good for temporary situations, like site maintenance or e-commerce promotions. Use them wisely!

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