HTTP status codes that are classed in the 3xx category, all redirect users from one URL to another. However, as with all status codes, many types exist in each category. Two of the most common 3xx codes are 301 redirect and 302 redirect and this post explains the differences.
301 redirect is also known as 301 moved permanently. The easiest way to describe a 301 redirect, is to liken it to moving home and having your mail redirected to your new address. If you didn’t have the mail redirected, then you wouldn’t receive it.
Plus, those who came to visit you would be confused because you don’t live there anymore, and there’s no information as to where you’ve moved to either.
A 301 redirect ensures that users are automatically redirected to your website’s new URL, or any pages within your website that have changed location. For example, if you change your domain name because your old one wasn’t very memorable or SEO friendly.
Even with social media marketing, it would be impossible to inform every user that your domain name had changed. Google wouldn’t be able to keep up either, instead recognising your new site as a separate entity to your old one. But with a 301 redirect, even if users enter your old URL, they will be taken to your new website without having to do anything. Search engines would also recognise the updated information.
If implemented correctly, 301 redirects do not negatively impact your website rankings. In fact, a 301 redirect passes on the link equity (also known as link juice) from the old location to the new location.
A 302 redirect is also known as 302 found. A 302 direct is for when a page or website has moved temporarily, rather than permanently.
A common example of why you’d want to use a 302 redirect is when your website is undergoing a new design. The website isn’t yet functional for users, but at the same time, you don’t want your website to link users to an error code. So, a 302 redirect will take them elsewhere as a temporary measure. The new location could be a holding page, that explains your site is undergoing a redesign along with your contact information for customers.
Unlike a 301 redirect, a 302 redirect does not pass on link equity. Therefore, you should take time to consider whether a 301 or a 302 redirect is the best course of action.
Also keep in mind that a 302 redirect may increase your site’s bounce rate, because users are greeted with a temporary page, rather than the fully functional website they were expecting.
Therefore, you should only use a 302 redirect if there is going to be a short time frame between changing it back to the original URL, rather than it being a permanent change.
How To Do A 301 Redirect
Implementing a 301 redirect for your site is a technical process. If your website uses Apache, you can edit your .htaccess file to do this. Essentially, this is a plain text file that can be changed to display any HTTP status code.
Alternatively, if your site uses WordPress, plugins are available which will streamline the process.
There is also a way to do redirects with PHP code.
Always check whether the redirect has worked and if in doubt consult a developer to do it for you. Otherwise, it can harm your website’s rankings especially if users are not being redirected to your new location.
By using a 301 or 302 redirect, you will ensure your traffic isn’t left wondering where your site went, or worst still being presented with a 404 error code! In an ideal world, you would select an SEO friendly domain that best suits your niche, so you could avoid having to redirect users altogether.
However, sometimes changing your website (even temporarily) is needed. If so, using a 301 redirect for a permanent move or a 302 redirect for a temporary move is the best practice.