302 Redirects Do Not Matter? Everybody is Wrong?

Not a week goes by where I don’t learn something in this business, and last week blew me away. What I had always considered a hard cold SEO fact turned out to be not true, despite there being claims to the contrary all over the web.

Last Friday, February 5, 2016, I was watching the weekly Search Buzz Video Recap and Barry Schwartz reported that 302 Redirects pass Page Rank like a 301

I was floored. I have long KNOWN that when you develop a new website or change a URL, best practices say to do so with a 301 Permanent redirect, and NEVER a 302 Temporary: What floored me even more, was that Barry said this:

This is probably obvious to most of you but I don’t think I covered a Google saying that 302 redirects to indeed pass PageRank, aka link juice.

Obvious to Most of You?

Did I miss a memo?  Everybody in the industry knows that 302’s are bad, don’t they?

Just look at all of the SEO 101 presentations, blog posts with evidenceinfographics and even videos from nearly every industry veteran you can find, and they’re all wrong?

Even the Redirect Guide at Moz is wrong, and says this:

What Google Says Now

I watched the video of John Mueller saying it for myself, and he said this –

“However, when we recognize that it’s actually more like a permanent redirect and the 302 is something that you maybe accidentally set up,
then we do treat that as a 301.”

Others Did Notice

In October, Google said they MAY sometimes treat 302’s as 301s, but I’d heard nothing else about it.

However, I do find after searching that Michael Martinez wrote about some test results last summer, and others have questioned it also, but there’s no affirmation from any Googlers that I can find until now.

If it’s really true, I think its a pretty important change…


Because The SEO Audit I Delivered Was Wrong

To the client for whom I delivered that expensive audit last month, I’m sorry.  Although I try to stay on top of things in the industry, sometimes things get by me, and I was wrong.

You did not actually have to fix this, and we did not have to send 11 emails back and forth with your developers.

The fact that your rankings have returned must be a total coincidence.

You did not “dodge a bullet” as you put it, and I’m especially sorry for saying that “your developers should have known better in the first place”.

Google is like the weather here in Portland… If you don’t like it, don’t worry, it’ll be different tomorrow.

Categories News
Scott Hendison:

View Comments (11)

    • Thank you, David ;) - yep, I think most people who would say "I knew this two weeks ago" are blowin' smoke. (and I also think common sense still dictates that you use a 301)

  • IIRC the comment was originally made by John Mueller and every one seems to have convenientally missed that he was talking about redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS. So perhaps it's a special case for that.

    • Actually, I did wonder about that too, although that really wouldn't make sense. Then again, since when does Google have to make sense?

  • *raises hand*

    I'm also someone that would say, "Change those 302s to 301s!" as technical SEO work.

    I guessed I missed this memo too. Suppose I should look to remove my "302? 301!" tattoo I got several years ago because I thought this would be a constant.

    • LOL - Me too Chris - I already have a scar from removing the "Anchor Text Forever" tattoo my back ;)

  • I still think recommending the 301 vs. a 302 is the right approach. I'm not a fan of betting my client's traffic and sales on things that "kinda mostly work" in certain circumstances. Same goes for using a 301 instead of just a rel canonical--there have been too many documented cases of the rel canonical not being respected.

  • I've just seen a client hijack itself using a 302 redirect from the mobile site to the desktop. It had been like that for a year with no problems and then overnight the mobile site ranked (badly) in place of the desktop one.

  • FWIW - unnamed client migrated from http to https on Aug 1 2016 - despite providing written recommendation/checklist to use 301s, client used 302s.

    In short, after about a month, rankings started slipping, and after about a month and a half, home page slipped from middle of 1st SERP to near top of 2nd SERP - my sense is that this is because the home page, like many sites, has the lion's share of links to it, and after the weeks went by and big G crawled the backlinks, saw the 302s, stopped passing (as much? any?) PageRank... 'nuff said... bye bye rankings.

    Sure, other factors could be at play (won't detail them here) but this is too much of a coincidence, and I'd never had the opportunity to see directly a site migration using 302s instead of 301s.

    I'll also spare the details of the tech and internal issues about why the client is having issues using 301s, also for confidentiality's sake.

    What I'd like to see next is the 302s changed to 301s - can't be sure if rankings would return, but if they do... just coincidence? I think not.

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We are all slaves to Googles wishes, like it or not.