301 redirect and 302 redirect are often used interchangeably to serve the same purpose: redirecting traffic from one URL to another. Yet, for search engines there are important differences between the two. These should be considered before choosing which to use.

 

A 301 redirect will permanently redirect traffic from one URL to another, much like filling out a “Change of Address” form that makes sure you receive post at your new location. The permanent redirect also means that qualities of the original page will be transferred over. This ensures that you don’t lose the link popularity and established SEO value of the old URL – it’s a total takeover.

 

A 302 redirect is temporary. It is uncommon for this redirect to be necessary. Nevertheless it is often used in place of a 301 simply because it is easier to implement: if you’re using an Apache server a 301 redirect requires special commands in your .htaccess file, while a 302 can be created using Javascript or a meta tag. People have also used a 302 over a 301 redirect to avoid the possibility of triggering the “Google aging delay” when moving sites – however this isn’t recommendable practice.

 

A 302 redirect should really only be implemented if you intend to bring back the original page after a period of time. Because the redirect is meant to be temporary, the qualities of the original URL will not be passed on to the new one. If you use a 302 redirect you need to be aware of this – search engines will likely only list one version of the page in the results and you need to make sure it’s the one that you intend. Using a 302 redirect by mistake can seriously hurt your search visibility and rankings, resulting in a loss of traffic.

 

Google is aware that 302 redirects are often implemented where a 301 is intended – they have gone on the record saying that if they believe the webmaster has made a mistake they will treat a 302 as a 301. Yet, there is no guarantee that they’ll figure out what was really intended and may very well continue indexing the old URL. So why take the risk? If you mean to permanently move your website or page, make sure you implement a 301 redirect.

 

Ultimately, there are two things to consider before choosing the right redirect: your intentions and the consequences. Hopefully after reading this the correct choice for you will be clear!