What is a 302 redirect and why are they important?

Not sure what a 302 redirect is or when to use it? Curious about the implications for your SEO efforts?

I have good news: 302 redirects are actually pretty easy. At its core, a 302 redirect is a way to tell search engines and users that a page has been temporarily moved and to redirect them to a new page for a short time.

Easy enough right?

The problem is, using the wrong redirect can seriously degrade SEO and user experience. Because of this, getting the redirect right is critical to your overall digital marketing strategy.

What is the difference between the forwarding types and when should you use a 302? Here's what you need to know:

What is the difference between a 302 redirect and a 301 redirect?

A 302 redirect is an HTTP response status code that tells search engines that a page has been moved, but only temporarily. Then users (and search engines) will be directed to the new temporary page.

A 301 redirect is a server-side HTTP response status code that tells users and search engines that a page has been permanently moved and is not coming back.

For users, there is little difference between the two types of redirects. You will be sent to a new (hopefully more useful) page regardless of the forward type.

The main difference between a 302 redirect and a 301 redirect is how long the redirect has been around, but a 302 also leaves something important behind: link equity and page rank.

If you are using a 302 redirect, the original page will usually keep its Google ranking so it shouldn't affect your SEO efforts. However, a 301 redirect causes the original page to lose rank and be de-indexed by search engines.

According to Google, the main reasons for using a 301 (permanent) redirect are:

  • You have changed the domain
  • People are accessing your website through multiple URLs
  • They merge two websites or pages

You can also use a 301 redirect when switching from HTTP to HTTPS or when merging two related pages. Use a 301 if you're moving a page and don't intend to bring it back.

If you use a 301 redirect, Google will no longer consider the original page. This is the main reason you want to make sure you are using the correct type of forwarding.

Let's say you've spent years setting up a columnar content page to get a key phrase in your industry. You decide to shut down the page for a few days to redesign and refresh the page. If you use a 301 redirect, Google will consider the page gone forever and will remove the page from indexing.

Ouch.

Use a 302 and google knows the page is coming back.

The type of redirect you use has a huge impact on your SEO. So make sure you always use the right type for the situation at hand.

Four reasons to use a 302 redirect

What are the exact benefits of a 302 redirect? Not all redirects are created equal, and using the wrong redirect can have a serious impact on your website's SEO, as we covered earlier.

Remember that a 301 redirect is permanent. They're telling Google and users that the page is gone and will never return. If the change isn't permanent, you'll want to use a 302 redirect.

Here are some advantages of using a 302 over a 301 redirect.

302 redirects Improve UX

Few things are more frustrating than clicking a link and not finding the content you expected. It is enough to send most of the users back to the search results (and to a competitor).

A 302 redirect ensures that users and search engines always find the content they want. For example, if a product is temporarily out of stock, you can use a 302 redirect to send customers to a related product page or a page that lets them know when the product is likely to be back in stock. You can also use a 302 to send users to related content while redesigning a columnar content page.

302 redirects are temporary

Unlike 301 pages, 302 redirects are temporary, so you can switch back at any time. This gives website owners a lot of flexibility. For example, you can temporarily send site users to a related page while redesigning a landing page.

Since the change is only temporary, Google does not remove the page from the search results and does not devalue the page in its ranking in any other way.

302 redirects shouldn't affect your SEO

A 302 redirect tells Google (and all other search engines) that the move is only temporary and maintains the page's ranking and link fairness. Therefore, implementing the redirect shouldn't have any impact on your SEO. That means all of your hard work won't be in vain!

When the page no longer needs to be redirected, just remove the redirect and it shouldn't affect your SEO.

302 redirects are easier to implement

Creating a 301 redirect requires access to your server. This means that most digital marketers and website owners will need to get the help of a developer to implement a 301 redirect. 302 redirects can be created relatively easily using meta tags or a WordPress plugin. That means you can implement them quickly and remove them easily.

Note: Don't use 302 redirects when moving a page permanently just because they're simpler. If a page shift is permanent, always use a 301 redirect. Depending on your site, 301 redirects may be easy to set up. If you're not sure where to start, check out your host's knowledge base or search for a WordPress plugin.

When should you use a 302 redirect?

Remember that the main difference between 301 and 302 redirects is the durability of the train. If you're moving a page for a short period of time, you'll want to use a 302 redirect to preserve the integrity (and ranking) of the original page.

Let's look at some examples of when you might want to use a 302.

When a page is temporarily moved

A 302 redirect makes no practical difference to users. You will still be sent to the new page. For search engines, however, the temporary nature of the switch is critical.

Essentially, you're telling search engines, "Hey, don't worry about this side now. The other side will be back soon."

If you are sure the move is only temporary, 302 is the way to go. For example, you can temporarily move a page because:

  • You are refreshing the page, but the new page is not yet active
  • You want to get feedback on a new page before you switch permanently
  • You are performing a time-sensitive action and want to redirect visitors to the page for a short time

When a page is under development

Another reason to use a temporary redirect is because a page (or website) is being developed. Major redesigns may require your website to be taken offline. This can be frustrating for users and confusing for search engines.

Instead of leaving users hanging, a temporary redirect lets them know that the page or website will be available again very soon.

In this situation, you can send users to an email login page or offer a countdown clock so they know when the site will be back. Here is an example of a Themeforest countdown page with a countdown clock:

302 Redirecting Sample Countdown Page

The page also provides links to social media accounts to help build a social media presence.

When the content is inactive or the page is broken

You can also use a 302 redirect if a page is damaged or inactive. You don't want users to land on a blank page (or get a 404 error). Therefore, a temporary redirect might be the way to go. Remember, only use a 302 if you want to bring the page back.

For example, the content may be inactive because you have a semi-annual sign up for a membership page or you have a landing page for a recurring webinar that is currently unavailable. A 302 should make sure the website is maintaining its SEO ranking and ready to go if you want to reactivate the page.

When a product is not available

Think about the last time you tried to order an item online only to find out that the product was out of stock. You were so close to getting this item in your hands only to find out it's gone and you have no idea when it might be available again.

It's frustrating and you will likely go to a competitor to complete your purchase. Because of this, inventory levels (when a product is out of stock or unavailable) can affect overall sales and affect brand confidence.

The reality is that sometimes items are out of stock. It's just part of the business. A manufacturer could run out or the supply chain could otherwise be affected by something that is beyond your control.

While you may not always be able to control inventory levels, you can use redirects to keep the user experience going. For example, you could use a 302 redirect to send users to a queue page like the following:

302 Example not redirect to stock

You can also send users to a related product (just let them know!). When the product is back in stock, you can reactivate the original page and keep all the SEO you worked so hard for.

When A / B testing content or design

Whether you're in e-commerce, the service industry, or a local business, A / B testing is critical to your bottom line. A / B testing lets you test two different versions of the same page to determine which version results in conversions, sales, or other behaviors you want users to engage in.

For example, I used A / B testing to figure out which CTAs to use in the sidebar of my website.

From test 302 diversion example

It turns out that the orange button converted much better than other colors.

Here's another example of the power of A / B testing: WallMonkeys, a company that offers wall tattoos and murals, increased conversions by 550% by using A / B testing to find out which website users were viewing more likely to respond.

So where do 302 redirects come into play?

Well, you don't want to permanently redirect your page because you might find out that the original page was the best! Instead, use a 302 redirect to temporarily send some of your users to the customized page without losing your ranking. When the test is over, you can remove the redirect and return to normal.

If you're having trouble with A / B testing, read this guide to help you create a successful A / B testing strategy.

How to redirect to the desktop or mobile version of your website

If you don't already have a mobile-friendly website, it's time to do so. Seriously. Google switched to mobile-first indexing in the summer of 2019.

Your website should already be working fine on both mobile and desktops. However, there are a couple of reasons why you might still have a mobile version of a website.

For example, a banking app might have a streamlined version of their website for mobile users, or they might find that most mobile users are looking for a branch location. A 302 can send these users to the most useful page. You can also use a streamlined navigation bar for mobile devices and give desktop users access to the full version.

Either way, a 302 redirect ensures that each user lands on the site that is most useful to them.

Conclusion

Redirects can be confusing: 301s, 302s plus 404 errors when pages are damaged.

Navigating these areas can be painful if you're not a developer or technical SEO expert. Hopefully I've helped you better understand when and why you want to use 302 redirects on your website.

Here is the TL; DR version: 302 redirects are temporary and generally keep the SEO of the original page. 301 pages are permanent and tell search engines to ignore the old page in favor of the new one.

After you understand the difference, make sure you are implementing the right one on your site.

Have you ever used temporary forwarding? What challenges did you face?

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