Difference between 301 and 302 Redirects

Many people don't know the different between a 301 and 302 redirect. You might think that Google and the other search engines would just follow the redirects, but that's where things get complicated. A 301 redirect means that the page has moved to a new location, permanently. A 302 redirect means, that the move is temporary. Search engines need to figure out whether to keep the old page, or replace it with the one found at the new location. Use the wrong type of redirects, and the search engines' view of your web site can get screwed up, badly.

Why does this matter? If you are moving a web page or an entire web site to a new location, for instance if you change your domain name, you want visitors to be able to find your site. A redirect causes the user's browser to automatically forward from the old location to the new one. You might think that Google and the other search engines would just follow the redirects, but that's where things get complicated. When a site moves, that can trigger the Google aging delay. Usually the site drops out of the search rankings for several months, sometimes even a year. We'll come back to this later.

There aren't too many situations where a 302 is appropriate. How often have you temporarily moved a page? It's much more common to move pages permanently. Nevertheless, it seems easier to create 302 redirects than 301s. You can use Javascript or a meta tag to create a 302. Creating a 301 redirect requires special commands in your .htaccess file if you use an Apache server. With Windows servers, creating 301 takes even more time and trouble. That's why there's a tendency for people to mistakenly use 302 instead of 301.

Google recognizes that many people use 302 when they really mean 301. Fortunately, Google isn't bound by any law to take people literally. For the sake of producing the best possible search results, Google can and should look at 302s and figure out if the webmaster really means 302, or if it's run-of-the-mill confusion and they really mean 301.

Whether Google actually handles 302s properly is an open question. If you use a 302 when you should be using a 301, there's a chance Google or some other search engines might keep your old URL in the index, and then filter out your new URL as a duplicate. You might end up with link popularity divided between the two domains, hurting your search rankings. The search engines might figure out how to handle your 302, or they might not. 

Universal search: The best answer is still the best answer

Back in 2001, Eric asked for a brainstorm of a few "splashy" ideas in search. A designer and product manager at the time, I made a few mockups -- one of which was for 'universal search.' It was a sample search results page for Britney Spears that, in addition to web results, also had news, images, and groups results right on the same page. Even then, we could see that people could easily become overwhelmed with the number of different search tools available on Google -- let alone those that would be created over the next few years. This proliferation of tools, while useful, has outgrown the old model of search. We want to help you find the very best answer, even if you don't know where to look.

That mockup and early observations were the motivation behind the universal search effort we announced earlier today. And while that Britney Spears mockup was the start of Google's universal search vision, it was instantly obvious that this would be one of the biggest architectural, ranking, and interface challenges we would face at Google. Over several years, with the help of more than 100 people, we've built the infrastructure, search algorithms, and presentation mechanisms to provide what we see as just the first step in the evolution toward universal search. Today, we're making that first step available on google.com by launching the new architecture and using it to blend content from Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News into our web results.

With universal search, we're attempting to break down the walls that traditionally separated our various search properties and integrate the vast amounts of information available into one simple set of search results. Read more ...

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