Using Redirect Pages and SEO

One more item you should be aware of is the effect of redirect pages on your search engine rankings. The type of redirect that you use can affect how your site is treated by a search engine. One type of redirect page is permanent, and another is temporary. The one you decide to use has serious implications for your site ranking.

Three types of redirect pages are the most common ones used in designing web pages:

301 Redirect:
The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect page. The page appears to users as they are redirected from one web site to another or from one web page to another.
The original page that is no longer available will be removed within a few weeks when 301 redirects are used.

302 Redirect:
The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect page. This page displays to users as they are redirected from one web site to another. The original page is temporarily unavailable, so when the 302 redirect is removed, the user goes back to the original site instead of the site used for redirection.

404 Error Pages:
A 404 error page redirects users to a page that displays an error message, usually one that says something like “This page is no longer available, please check the URL and try again or use the refresh button on your browser.”

It’s important that you understand that a search engine crawler reads a redirect according to the number that it is given. For example, although 301 and 302 redirects do the same thing, the codes are different, which tells the search engine crawler that one means the page no longer exists and the other means the page is only temporarily not being used.

Each redirect number should be used under different circumstances. For example, a 301 redirect should be used when you migrate all your web pages from one URL to another. A 302 redirect should be used when you have a temporary web site that you would rather have users see — if you have a different look for your site during a holiday, for instance, you may choose to use the 302 redirect. And the 404 redirect is an error indicator. This is used when the web site that a user is trying to access errors out for some reason; either it no longer exists and there is no 301 redirect, or there is an error in the coding for the site or the way the user typed the site address into the address bar.

The confusion with the redirect numbers comes in when web-site owners try to use the wrong code for the wrong reasons. Here’s another example: Say you move your web site from one URL to another, and you want to redirect your traffic to the new site. Using the 301 redirect is the correct choice in this case, because it tells the search engines that your site has moved, and that the search equity built at the previous URL should be moved to the new URL.

With a 302 redirect, the search engines will never update their indexes to reflect the change in destination URL, because you have indicated that the move is temporary.

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Some savvy web-site designers have decided that creating custom redirect pages is a good way to improve the SEO on their site, but unfortunately this doesn’t always work the way it should. What happens is that the custom redirect page doesn’t provide the proper redirect number to the search engine crawler, so it reads the site differently than a redirect page. This could affect your search engine rankings negatively, because the page will appear to be unrelated to the other pages in your web site.

So how to handle redirect pages? The best way for SEO purposes is to use redirect pages in the manner in which they are meant to be used. Using them in any other way is risky in terms of your search engine results rankings.

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