Written by Tiago Silva. Updated on 09, August 2023
Everyone doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will need to use redirects sooner or later for tasks like domain migrations or changing the URL structure.
That's why I wrote this article to answer the most pressing questions about redirects to help clear your doubts.
In general, redirects aren't bad for SEO as they help preserve link value (aka. PageRank or link equity) when content moves to another URL.
However, not all redirects are the same, and when misused, they can ruin your rankings making Google drop your pages from the SERP.
That's why you must know the different types of redirects like temporary (302) and permanent (301) redirects.
When most people refer to redirects, they are talking about 301 redirects.
This is the primary redirection method used in an attempt to preserve link equity when a page moves permanently.
301s are server-side redirects and help with user experience by preventing 404 errors.
These redirects come in handy to retain organic traffic when there's a website migration or content merger.
301 redirects are not always good for SEO.
As mentioned above, misusing redirects can be costly.
This means that if you use too many redirects, you can create a redirect chain that wastes crawl budget and link value.
However, using redirects in the wrong places can be even worse.
I'm talking about making a section or a complete website inaccessible with redirect loops.
In this case, there are a series of pages redirecting to each other in a circle without a final destination URL. This makes all the pages in the loop inaccessible and creates a redirection problem.
Another example of 301 redirects not being positive for SEO is redirecting to an unrelated page.
When this happens, Google sees the redirect as a soft-404 because the redirect isn't useful for users.
These examples show that 301 redirects aren't always beneficial for your SEO efforts, and you should analyze them on a case-by-case before implementing redirects.
I mainly talked about 301 redirects, but everything in this section also applies to 308 redirect code as Google sees them as the same.
Temporary redirects are okay for SEO as they don't pass link equity, and Google will keep the redirected page in the SERP while directing users to a different URL.
Common reasons for using these redirects include maintenance and holiday sales.
This means there aren't negative SEO consequences when you want to temporarily move a page.
However, things get tricky if you keep them in place for a long time.
If that's the case, Google will see the redirect as permanent, pass the link value and drop the redirected page from the SERP.
Google does it because their systems think someone used temporary redirects instead of a permanent redirect.
Bottom line, avoid using temporary redirects when you're not planning to bring a page back.
302 response code is the most commonly used temporary redirect, but Google says it's fine to use 307 redirects as well.
301 redirects are better when you permanently move a page, and 302s are better for temporary redirections.
This means that for merging content or migrations, you should use a 301, but if you are running A/B tests or doing maintenance, a 302 is the wise option.
When Google sees a 301 redirect, they drop the redirected page from the SERP and pass the SEO value to the new URL. This avoids the indexing of pages that are no longer inaccessible to users.
Whereas with 302 redirects, Google doesn't pass SEO value because the page will come back.
But remember that Google will treat a 302 as like it's a 301 if you keep it in place for a long time.
In summary, 301 redirects aren't better or worse than 302 as these redirection codes have different purposes and use cases.
However, they pass link value as regular redirects if picked up by search engine bots.
A 301 redirect is one of the most commonly used by SEOs as a way to preserve link equity when they need to implement a redirect on a website.
The 301 is a permanent and server-side redirect. This means neither users nor crawlers will be able to access the requested URL, making the content on that page inaccessible.
When Google detects a URL with a 301 redirect, it will remove it from the search results. So, you should only use 301s when you don't want the page to appear on the SERP.
A 302 redirect is an HTTP code that means the page was Found but moved temporarily to another URL.
The 302 is a server-side redirect recommended when you intend to bring the page back in the near future. That's one of the reasons why Google tend to keep pages with 302 redirects indexed, as they aren't gone forever. For example, 302s can be handy during holiday periods, where you can set up a different sales page and bring the normal content after the holiday.
The main difference between a 302 (Found) and 307 (Temporary Redirect) redirect is that 307 redirects don't allow changing the HTTP request method.
When the request method isn't preserved during a redirect, it can cause unexpected behaviours, which could happen with 302s.
A 302 redirect might not preserve or specify the request method leading to malfunctions, and that's one of the main reasons the 307 code was introduced.
So, think of the 307 as the successor of the 302 redirect.
Reducing the number of redirects and using Screaming Frog SEO Spider are easy ways to ensure your SEO isn't ruined by redirects.
This tool is essential to quickly identify those dreaded redirect chains and redirect loops that waste precious crawl budget and affect your users.
Run an audit of your website on Screaming Frog.
When the audit's ready, click on Reports/Redirects, and then you can select between the 3 types of reports: All Redirects, Redirect Chains, or Redirect & Canonical Chains.
Then you'll get a CSV file showing:
I also suggest you use a redirect checker like WhereGoes to test if they are working as intended.
Tip: Redirect checkers are also useful when you know a link redirects to another but aren't sure about the redirection path. Be careful to avoid redirects through internal links.
Following this guide should get you on the right path to properly use redirects and reap their SEO benefits. If you want to take your Google Search Console data to another level, sign up for SEOTesting with a 14-day free trial.