Before we answer the question, let’s first define redirection. It is simply the process of forwarding one URL to another but different URL. The act of redirecting is sending both the visitors and search engines to a different URL from the one they initially requested. Within Search Engine Optimization, redirection plays a very significant role. So it is important that you know what types of redirection you should know of. Additionally, being able to know exactly when every type of redirection is used and how each, measures up against the other is important.
Why Do People Use Redirects?
When it comes to digital marketing, it is essential that one maintains their customers despite any changes being made on their website. Occasionally, website owners might be forced to change URLs for different reasons.
When this happens, it will be best that your visitors and users get a great experience on the website. In that, when a user wants to look something up the net, they will normally request content from a certain URL they have always known contains that specific content.
Now what they not know is that you changed the URL but retained the same content. To avoid your customers being hit with a 404 page, it is wise to redirect them to the new URL that is currently operative.
Another reason people use redirects is for search engines. When you move content, the search engines should understand that such an action has been taken. This is so to help you clarify on how you desire your website to be indexed.
Types of Redirects to Note
Normally, redirects can be divided into two categories, the client side redirects and server side redirects. It is important that one knows the difference between the two because using the wrong type of redirect will be disastrous especially when SEO is considered. There are different ways of implementing these two types of redirects as illustrated below.
This is a type of redirect where a server forwards a 3xx HTTP status code every time a URL is requested. It is upon the server to determine which URL should be sent to search engines and users.
Here are the most common server redirects:
- The 301
- The 302
- The 303
- The 307
- The 308
301 Redirect (Permanently Moved)
Let’s start with defining 301. This is a permanent redirect that guides visitors from URL A to URL A. as it redirects, at the same time it sends a message to the search engine that content from URL A has been moved permanently to URL B.
Note that this type of redirect is the best one to use for Search Engine Optimization. I say this because from general consensus, this redirect passes 90 percent to 99 percent of the page authority from an old to a new or redirected URL.
301 redirect is always the best choice because, 30 redirects have a more permanent nature than the rest redirects and therefore browsers will often cache them.
Points to Note
Another point to note is, for those ones that need non-permanent redirects, it is not advised to use 301 redirects. However, if you happen to accidentally or unintentionally use them, be prepared to wait for a while to remove the 301 redirect. Normally it could take even months for the redirected URL to find its way back in the indexes of the search engine.
You will find that it is easy to forget that redirects should move with the domain. When redesigning a website or adopting a new CMS or domain, think of the redirects on domain level and move with every single redirect.
Forgetting even one of the redirect creates a potentially bad UX for search engines and the visitors. Make sure to standardize on one place for redirects so that in future when you want to make some changes, you will not miss any. You do not want to lose any link value just because you forgot one redirect.
302 Redirect (Found or Moved Temporarily)
While visitors and other people might confuse 302 redirect and 301 redirect for one another, search engines can clearly determine the difference. A 303 redirect is not so different from the former. The only variation is that when content from URL A is moved to URL B, the 302 redirect notifies the search engines that the content has been moved temporarily to URL B.
The internet uses a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to dictate how URL’s work. The major HTTPS versions are 1.1 and 1.0 and redirect 302 uses both HTTPS. In the 1.0 HTTPS, 302 redirect refers to the status code “Moved Temporarily” while in version 1.1, it changes to indicate “Found.”
Tis kind of redirect is rarely used for SEO because it does not pass any page authority from an old to a new URL like 301 redirect. In SEO it is vital that one passes a page’s authority and it is only 301 that offers that option.
When to Use 302 Redirect
- A 302 redirect can be used when temporarily moving a URL to another one.
- When one has a phone website and a desktop website and they want to redirect mobile users that visit the desktop website or the other way round.
- When one wants to redirect visitors to another page basing on their language preferences and geographical locations.
Often, when a 302 redirect is used for a long time, the search engines tend to confuse it for a 301 redirect. This is one reason Google requires 302 redirects that have been used for long to pass full page rank.
If search engines can confuse between the tow, it only means that you should be more careful to pick the right redirect to serve the right requirements.
This is another serve redirect that makes sure visitors do not submit forms more than once when they use the browser’s Back button. It is because 303 redirects show that the GET HTTP method should be used for any follow up request made by a visitor to the temporary.
Points to Note
The only time to use 303 redirects is when one is handling submission forms on a website.
Do not use this redirect for redirecting a URL after content has been moved. It cannot be used in SEO because search engines cannot carry out POST requests.
307 Redirect (Temporarily Moved)
This is like the HTTP 1.1successor of 302 redirect because it is only used when content has been moved temporarily from URL A to URL B. in some cases, it is treated as 302 redirect but t is best to jut ether use 301 or 302 redirect when stressing on the “temporarily moved” part.
When to use it:
- When content is only moved temporarily
- When the server has already been determined by the search engines to be 1.1 compatible.
What to note
At the moment it is quite hard to determine whether the search engines have acknowledged a page to be compatible. Because of this, one should just use 302 redirect to be on the safer side.
307 redirect can also be used as an internal redirect in care of HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security).
This is a permanent version of the temporary 307 redirect. Apart from 301, this redirect also does pass page authority because of the permanent nature the two share. In some way it is similar to 307 redirect and the same advice applies. At the moment, one should rather stick to using 301 redirect for content permanency instead.
Client Side Redirects
This is a redirecting method where the browser of a user handles any redirections. However, before anything, you should know that using client redirects comes with its own drawbacks.
- For Search Engine Optimization, search engines might fail to pass authority when such redirects are used. One reason for this is that they might not be aware of such redirects or they might fail to recognize it as a redirect because of the time of refresh.
- These redirects normally break the Back button since every time a user tries to use this button, they are immediately taken back to the URL they were redirected to.
- Unfortunately, only a few browsers support this type of redirects.
It is upon you to decide if you still want to go ahead and use client redirect rather than server redirects. My advice though would be for the latter option.
Meta Refresh Redirect
This is a redirect implemented in a page level other than severs level. Meta refresh is used for instructing the browser to either reload a page or load a different URL after some seconds have gone by. When you browse and see soothing like “If you are not redirected in few seconds, click here”, know that it is a Meta refresh.
It is recommended that they are not used for SEO because they have poor usability, their lack of link equity pass guarantee and their slow nature.
Redirections mostly will waste your website visitor’s time and crawl budget. If possible, use them but not frequently. Make sure to take extra care when handling them because they can be a little confusing. Considering that redirects are part of the things you have to deal with when handling a website, make good use of it to give your users a good experience.