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302 Redirects And Time

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#1 qwerty


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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:05 AM

A couple of years ago, if you had asked me what I thought of 302 redirects, I would have said that most of the times people use them, they're making a mistake. Since then, I've seen some logical reasons for putting them in place, and we use them where I work under certain particular circumstances. We even have a system in place to dynamically generate them for certain URLs at certain times.

A little less than two weeks ago, I discovered a 302 that had been put in place for reasons I disagreed with. I didn't think the URL that was being redirected (the home page of a subdomain) should have been redirected at all. I would have preferred to see the page redesigned rather than sending requests for that page elsewhere, temporarily or not.

Since then, I've been watching Google's response to the 302, and it's got me questioning the value of the redirect again. I noticed that after 9 or 10 days, Google started returning a 404 error in response to requests for the cached copy of the page, and it no longer comes up as one of the results of a site: search -- well, at least not in the first 100 of the 42,700 results returned. I haven't looked past that point.

My understanding of the 302 has been that it keeps the old URL indexed, preserves its PR/authority/etc, and keeps the search engine from transferring the strength of the redirected page to the target of the redirect. At least that's how it differs from a 301. Now I'm starting to think that the "temporary" nature of the 302 means that, the longer it lasts and the less temporary it seems, the less it preserves of the old URL. It may be that Google sees a 302 that's in place for a day or two as a sensible, helpful message, but after a while (if I can anthropomorphize the algo a bit) it starts thinking that maybe we're asking it to remember something that might not be coming back after all and starts letting it fade a bit.

And that leads me to wonder if, once that page is actually republished, maybe Google won't have as much respect for it as it used to. Some of the authority the page had built up over time could be forgotten.

I imagine the use of 302s is relatively rare -- that everyone reading this has much more experience in working with 301s -- but I'd be interested in people's thoughts about using them, especially about using them for somewhat longer periods of time.

#2 torka


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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:32 AM

My last experience with 302s was years ago, so most likely doesn't apply any more... however, FWIW at the time we had a page that was redirected with a 302 for about five years with no apparent ill effects. (It really was a temporary redirect, I promise -- it just took me longer than I planned to make the changes necessary to be able to get rid of it.)

--Torka :propeller:

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