To fully understand the difference between 301 and 302 redirects, we must first understand what each of these numbers mean before looking at the various SEO implications.
Server Response Code
Both 301 and 302 are HTTP response status codes which are the server’s response when accessing the given URL. The server gives this response to anything accessing the given URL such as a browser or a search engine spider. You might be familiar with other server response codes including common examples like 404 or 502.
What is a 301?
When a server gives the response code 301, this is known as a permanent redirect. This is the server telling whoever (or whatever) is accessing the given URL that whatever is being accessed has permanently moved somewhere else.
What is a 302?
Alternatively, a 302 response is a temporary redirect. This server response is telling anything that accesses the URL that this page has been temporarily moved to a different location.
Whilst the front-end, user experience for these two different redirects is almost identical, there are hugely different SEO implications. However, understanding the difference between these two responses makes it easier to understand how a search engine might respond to these “behind the scenes”.
A 301 redirect will be interpreted quite literally by a search engine as content that has been permanently moved. The search engine understands that users will now be sent to the new URL that old page redirects to. Therefore, the search engine will transfer any SEO benefit it previously held against the old page to the new.
On the other hand, 302 redirects do not transfer any SEO benefit from the old page to the redirected location. This is because the server has told the search engine the content is only temporarily redirected. It’s easy to see how this could cause major issues for a site if used incorrectly. Whilst no SEO benefit has been transferred, the 302 redirect does encourage the search engine to retain any SEO authority in the old content and check back again later.