Choosing 301 vs 302 redirects is crucial for maintaining SEO value between URLs. When used correctly, redirects are powerful tools for managing successful websites. But what’s the difference between 301 and 302 redirects? When should you use each for optimal SEO performance?

301 vs 302 - what's the best redirect for SEO?


Redirects play an essential role in SEO by directing traffic and search engine signals to new or preferred URLs. The most common redirect types are 301 permanent redirects and 302 temporary redirects. On the surface, they seem similar – just different HTTP status codes. But 301s and 302s have very different effects on rankings and site optimization.

This definitive guide will cover everything you need about 301 and 302 redirects. You’ll learn the core differences between the two, when to use each type, and how to set up and manage redirects for the most SEO benefit. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced webmaster, read on to boost your website’s performance.

Key Takeaways:

  • 301 redirects pass link equity and are optimal for permanent URL changes. 302s don’t pass SEO value and are best for temporary redirects.
  • Use 301s when you move or merge pages long-term to transfer rankings. Use 302s for short-term redirects like UX testing.
  • Incorrect redirects can split SEO value or create duplicate content. Manage redirects carefully.
  • You can set up redirects in .htaccess files, server configs, or WordPress plugins. Watch redirect performance.

301 Permanent Redirects Explained

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect with a clear SEO purpose: to pass on the ranking power and equity of old URLs to new destination pages.

301 refers to the HTTP status code for this type of redirect. When search engines crawl a 301, they understand that content has permanently moved to a new location. The 301 sends all the link equity and SEO value to the new URL, transferring its search rankings.

For SEO, the primary uses of 301 redirects include:

  • Redirecting individual pages that have moved to a new URL permanently
  • Consolidating content that’s been reorganized or merged from multiple URLs to one new location
  • Redirecting an entire domain that is migrating to a new domain long-term

301s are powerful but need to be used judiciously. By passing all SEO value to a new page, the old URL loses its search presence. The 301 redirect also tells search engines to drop the old URL from results and focus solely on the new location.

When to Use a 301 Redirect

Here are the main instances when a permanent 301 redirect is the best SEO option:

Moved pages: If you change the URL of a page, use a 301 to preserve its rankings. For example, if you change to, redirect the old URL to the new one with a 301.

Site restructuring. When you reorganize a website or merge content from many pages into new unified pages, use 301s to funnel SEO value into the new URLs.

Domain migrations. If you are moving your entire website to a new domain, set up 301 redirects from the old domain to relevant pages on the new domain. This will transfer SEO authority to the new property.

Merging content. If you delete or merge duplicate, outdated, or overlapping content into new pages, use 301s to direct SEO value into the remaining pages.

The key in all these scenarios is that the URL changes or content migrations should be permanent to warrant 301s. You don’t want to dilute your SEO value across too many URLs or domains long-term.

301 Redirect Benefits for SEO

When used correctly, 301 redirects offer powerful SEO advantages:

  • Transfers ranking power of old URLs. The new page inherits the SEO strength of the old page, speeding up rankings.
  • Consolidates link equity. Any external links pointing to the old URL now contribute to the new URL’s domain authority.
  • Signals the canonical URL. Eliminates duplicate content issues by telling search engines the single location to index and rank.
  • Improves new page relevance. The new page gains the SEO reputation of the old page, making it seem more authoritative.
  • Simplifies site architecture. It allows you to simplify and optimize your information architecture without losing SEO.

Setting Up 301 Redirects

There are a few common ways to set up 301 redirects:

  • .htaccess file, You can add 301 redirect rules to the .htaccess file on Apache servers. This works well for individual URLs.
  • Web server config. For mass 301 redirects, you can configure them at the web server level, such as in Nginx config files.
  • CMS plugins. Platforms like WordPress have great plugins for setting up and managing 301 redirects.
  • Redirect manager tools. Both for WordPress and other setups, there are dedicated 301 redirect manager tools to handle the process.

When setting up redirects, use a site crawler like Screaming Frog to generate a complete list of old URLs. You’ll also want to check your analytics for popular pages that still drive traffic. Then, carefully plan your redirects to optimize SEO value consolidation.

Test redirect implementation to ensure they are functioning as intended. Keep monitoring traffic and rankings over time to optimize your redirects.

302 Temporary Redirects Explained

A 302 redirect is intended for temporary, short-term redirects where you don’t necessarily want to pass SEO value.

The 302 status code tells search engines that content has temporarily moved to a new URL but may move back or elsewhere again soon. Unlike 301s, 302s do not pass along link equity or rankings.

Some appropriate uses of 302 redirects include:

  • Temporary maintenance or server upgrades where you want to direct traffic away from a URL briefly.
  • Split testing or A/B testing alternate versions of URLs, designs, content, etc.
  • Accessing old URLs that you want to keep working for existing inbound links or traffic temporarily but will eventually sunset.
  • Temporarily redirecting all traffic to one URL while rebuilding or migrating a site.
  • Short-term content changes you want to test drive before committing to permanent 301 redirects.

When to Use a 302 Redirect

The main guiding principle is that 302s are meant for impermanent, temporary redirects. Some examples:

  • Redirecting traffic during a website redesign where you don’t want to pass SEO value until the new pages are 100% ready.
  • Pointing an old seasonal promo URL to your current promo URL just for the duration of the promotion.
  • Testing new product category URLs, pricing pages, or other content that may change again.
  • Maintaining access to an old URL for existing links but don’t want it indexed long-term.
  • Running A/B tests on homepage designs, product names, or content variations.

The transient nature of 302s gives you flexibility. Just be sure to have a plan to switch any temporary redirects to permanent 301s eventually.

302 Redirect Effects on SEO

Since a 302 redirect does not pass SEO value, the old URL retains its original rankings and equity. A 302 merely tells search engines to temporarily show the content at the new URL – without splitting or transferring authority.

Used deliberately, 302s allow you to:

  • Test new page variations without diluting SEO value before committing.
  • Avoid ranking drops or confusion by redirecting traffic during website transition periods.
  • Temporarily redirect outdated seasonal or promotional URLs that you plan to reinstate later.

However, 302s could confuse search engines if overused. The temporary signal contradicts search engines’ desire for a stable index.

Setting Up 302 Redirects

You can install 302 redirects using the same methods as 301 redirects:

  • .htaccess files
  • Web server configuration
  • CMS plugins and tools

The process is identical. Specify 302 as the status code instead of 301 in your redirect rules.

Some plugins like Redirection for WordPress make it easy to toggle between 301 and 302 redirects as needed.

Monitor analytics closely during and after temporary redirects. Adjust the approach as required and switch to 301s for any permanent changes.

301 vs. 302 Redirects: A Comparison

To recap the key differences:

Factor 301 Redirect 302 Redirect
Permanence Permanent Temporary
SEO value transfer Yes No
Link equity transfer Yes No
Canonical signal Strong Weak
Ideal for
  • Permanent URL changes
  • Site restructures
  • Merging content
  • Short-term URL switches
  • A/B testing
  • Accessing old URLs

Redirect Recommendations for SEO

Based on the above, here are some best practices when considering redirects:

  • Use 301 permanent redirects for long-term URL changes and migrations to maintain SEO rankings.
  • Limit 302 temporary redirects unless you have a deliberate short-term purpose in mind. Don’t use it out of laziness.
  • Be consistent, and plan redirects carefully. Avoid excessive redirects to prevent splitting SEO value.
  • Double-check for accidental 302 redirects masquerading as 301s, which can devalue pages.
  • Use 301/302 redirect tools and plugins to install redirects properly. Track their ongoing performance.
  • Adjust your redirect approach over time to maximize SEO value flow to your best content.

The Final Word

Redirects are a powerful but often misused or overlooked SEO tool. By mastering the nuances of 301 and 302 redirects, you can control search engine signals to and from your pages. Use this guide to select suitable redirect types and manage redirects for maximum SEO benefit.