What’s the difference between a 301 permanent HTML redirect and other forms of redirect?

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Nov 8th 2019

URL redirection is a tactic employed by website owners and managers to ensure both users and search engines are directed to the most up to date version of a web page.

The most commonly used redirects are 301, 302, 307 and meta refresh. To a user they generally work the same way, but they aren’t the same as far as search engines are concerned and they handle them very differently. So what’s the difference between them and which is the most appropriate for your project?

301 Redirect - Moved Permanently

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, which automatically diverts both users and search engines from an old URL to a new one. It provides the best user experience and allows the highest amount of link juice transfer, so in most instances a 301 redirect is the best method for implementing redirects on a website. Find out more about 301 redirects, what they do and why are they important.

302 Redirect - Found

Whereas a 301 redirect tells a search engine that a page has moved permanently to a new location, a 302 redirect tells it that the move is only temporary. With a 302 redirect your are relying on the search engines to figure out whether to continue to index the old URL and disregard the new one as a duplicate, or replace it completely with the new URL. If they make the wrong choice this can result in a loss of both rankings and traffic. There aren’t many instances when a 302 redirect is a better option than a 301, so unless absolutely necessary this is not a great route to go down. The exception to this is when content is really only being moved temporarily, such as during maintenance.

307 - Moved Temporarily

Similar to a 302, a 307 is a temporary redirect. A 307 is the HTTP 1.1 successor of the 302 redirect and most search engines will treat it like a 302, so there’s not much value in using it over a 302. In addition the server needs to have been identified by the search engines as 1.1 compatible which is just not viable in the majority of cases. It is therefore generally best to use a 302 redirect for content that has been temporarily moved.

Meta Refresh

Meta refreshes are a type of redirect implemented at page level rather than at server level. They are most commonly identifiable by a countdown period and the text "If you are not redirected in five seconds, click here." Because they are slower and interrupt the user’s flow, they are not great in terms of user experience. Meta refreshes do pass some link equity from the original URL to the new one, but nowhere near as much as a 301 redirect.

If you are a website owner or manager, it is extremely important to observe redirect best practice, in order to maintain domain authority and protect SEO value when changing page URLs (either on a page by page basis or site wide). Learn more about maximising SEO using 301 redirects.

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