How Google Handles Page Redirects
With every great search engine, comes it’s own set of peculiarities, rules and guidelines that need to be adhered to. Google continues to remain on top as the authority index and source for content placement, in my opinion.
On occasion, one needs to change or relocate content to somewhere else. Just like a detour sign on a road or a new route, you need to know how to accurately find it. With Google, this process, known as a Redirect, is treated differently, depending on the type of redirect you implement for your page or content.
There are several types of redirects, but the following four are the most common. Below is an Infographic with highlights and pros and cons for each:
Here is some additional context around each type of redirect:
301 Permanent Redirect
If you use a server-side redirect, the web server returns the redirect as soon as you try to access the page. The user never sees any of the content of the initial page.
A “301 permanent redirect” is a server redirect that tells search engine robots that the old URL should not be used anymore. The new URL should be used instead.
This is useful when you change your website URLs for good, for example when you redesign your website.
302 Temporary Redirect
A 302 server-side redirect is less common as the 301 permanent one. The difference is that a “302 temporary redirect” informs search engines that the URL may change. According to John Mueller from Google
“search engines tend to index the content (and keep all signals) under [the original URL], since it’s unsure that it’ll always redirect to [the new URL].”
These temporary URL redirects are useful for ones that depend on the user’s country, device, or language settings. You might see it used to perform context-relevant targeting if the user comes from a different location.
Again, according to John Mueller of Google,
“caching depends on the server settings, and search engines have to guess at what you’re trying to do (index under [the original URL] or [the redirected URL]?).”
303 and other forms of redirects that are less common
It is not usually recommended to use these types of redirects. Here’s what John Mueller says about them:
“If you have strong feelings about one of the other kinds of redirects, feel free to use them. We’ll have to figure out which URL to index the content under, so if you have strong feelings about that too, make sure to follow up with other canonicalization signals.”
You can redirect as many URLs on your website as you want at the same time. However, you should keep the redirect chain as short as possible. Google follows up to five redirects in a single chain.
Below are some recommended resources for learning more on redirects and their usage:
Moz.com – https://moz.com/learn/seo/redirection
Google Search Console Help – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93633?hl=en
WikiPedia.org – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_redirection
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