A redirect is a tool used by websites for “rerouting” or sending a visitor to an alternative webpage. An example of a redirect would be when you type “example.com” in your web-browser, but are taken to a different website, like “new-example.com.”
URL redirects are an extremely common practice employed by webmasters and content managers to ensure visitors to their website are reaching their desired content.
When you request a web-page from your browser, there is a server somewhere on the Internet that is receiving your request and responding with the appropriate content. Fundamentally, a redirect occurs when a web-server's response contains a special piece of data (an HTTP response header) instructing the browser to reroute the visitor to an alternative location.
The technical details aside, a browser works by requesting a URL and rendering the page that is returned by the website. If the website wishes the user to be redirected, the server will respond differently than if it was serving a page; it will send an extra piece of data indicating that the visitor should be redirected to a specified location.
Without going into too much of the technical details – a redirect is a behavior performed by a web-browser whenever it receives a response containing a flag (an HTTP header) to do so.
Commonly referred to as a “permanent” redirect.
Indicates to search-engines and web-browsers that the requested page has permanently relocated to a new location.
Note: permanent redirects are often cached by web-browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Therefore, it may be tricky to retroactively update a 301 redirects target location once it has been established. Any visitors who have already received the 301 redirect response for a URL will likely be served a cached response from their web-browser when visiting the same URL again.
Suggestion Only use a 301 redirect when you know that the target location will not change.
Commonly referred to as a “temporary” redirect.
Useful for general-purpose redirects within your website, where you do not want visitor’s to cache the redirect response permanently.
Suggestion Use 302 redirects for pages that have changed URL, but are subject to be updated in the future
Uncommon due to legacy browser support
Used for technical scenarios when a visitor’s HTTP request method should be persisted when they are redirected. For example, if a user submits a form, the browser normally issues a POST request to the form’s action URL. If the server responds with a 302 redirect response, the client’s web-browser would typically issue a GET request when handling the redirect. However, if the server responds with a 307 redirect response, the client’s web-browser will POST request to the redirect destination. Please note, form-data is typically lost when redirecting via POST request.
The most common use-cases that would require a redirect are:
A URL redirect is a technique used in web development and SEO to route visitors from one page to another. When a user requests a URL, the server can respond with a redirect status code that points the browser to load a different page instead. There are several types of HTTP redirect status codes, each with a different purpose. This article will explain the five most commonly used redirect types - 301, 302, 303, 307, and 308 - and how to decide which one to use.
The 301 status code means that a page has moved permanently to a new location. When search engines receive a 301 redirect, they will update their indexes to associate all the relevance and value of the old page with the new redirect destination.
Browser Behavior: When browsers receive a 301 status code, they understand that the requested resource has moved permanently. The browser caches the new URL, and subsequent requests to the old URL will automatically be redirected to the new URL. The browser's address bar will also display the new URL. If the old URL was bookmarked, users accessing the bookmark will be redirected to the new URL.
Using a 301 tells both visitors and search engines that the redirect is permanent and the page has been relocated for good. 301s should be used when a domain name changes or when content is moved to a new URL permanently. Implementing 301 redirects ensures traffic flows to the new location and preserves search engine rankings.
For example, if your website changed domain names from www.oldsite.com to www.newsite.com, you would set up 301 redirects so that oldsite.com pages redirect to their new counterparts on newsite.com. This signals to search engines that the site content has permanently moved to the new domain.
A 302 Found redirect is used for temporarily moving a webpage rather than permanently.
Browser Behavior: Browsers typically do not cache 302 redirects, ensuring that on subsequent visits, the browser checks the original URL first. The browser's address bar will display the new temporary URL for that session.
Using a 302 means that the change is only temporary and search engines should not update their indexes. 302 redirects are commonly used to point a page to a maintenance or coming soon page while website updates are in progress. They allow you to seamlessly handle temporary URL changes. 302s are also frequently used by URL shortening services to briefly redirect shortened URLs to their destination.
The 303 redirect status code indicates that the response to a GET request can be found at a different URI.
Browser Behavior: The 303 response prompts browsers to look for the requested resource at a different location using a GET request, regardless of the original request type. The address bar will show the URL provided in the 303 response.
303 tells the browser to look for the requested resource at a different location through a GET request. One common use case for 303 redirects is to avoid duplicate content penalties by redirecting old blog post URLs to the current home page. For example, an old blog post URL like www.example.com/blog/post-title could 303 redirect to just the blog home page at www.example.com/blog. This prevents search engines from indexing the old post URLs as duplicate content.
A 307 redirect is similar to a 302 in that it indicates the redirect is temporary, but it has one key difference. The 307 status code requires the redirect to preserve the original request method.
Browser Behavior: When a browser receives a 307 redirect, it understands the move is temporary. These redirects are not typically cached, so browsers always refer to the original URL first. The browser's address bar will display the temporary redirected URL for that session.
For example, if the original request was a POST, the redirect destination should still handle it as a POST request rather than a GET. 307 redirects are not frequently used today but can be preferable over 302s in some cases to maintain the original request type.
The main advantage of 307 is that it allows temporary redirects to work seamlessly without changing the request method itself. However, for most common redirect needs, a 302 redirect will work fine and is more widely supported.
The 308 redirect status code was introduced more recently to serve as an additional option for permanent redirects. It operates similarly to a 301 in that it indicates a permanent URL move, but it keeps the redirect request method the same while 301 converts it to a GET request. So, if the original request was a POST or PUT, 308 will maintain that method rather than changing it to GET.
Browser Behavior: Receiving a 308, browsers will treat it similarly to a 301, understanding the move is permanent. The browser caches the new URL, and future requests will go directly there. The browser's address bar will display the new permanent URL.
While 308 does have its uses in some cases, 301 remains the standard code for signaling a permanent redirect to search engines. The 308 status can be leveraged however if you need permanent redirects to avoid changing the request method.
In addition to server-side redirects, you can also implement client-side redirects directly within the HTML code. One way is by using meta tags.
The HTML <meta> tag allows setting the http-equiv attribute to "refresh" and specifying a content value for the redirect URL or wait time in seconds. For example:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=https://example.com">
This meta tag will redirect the page to example.com after a 0-second delay. The content value can also specify a waiting period before redirecting. Client-side meta tag redirects happen entirely within the browser rather than relying on a server response status code.
When setting up a redirect, follow this process to choose the appropriate status code:
Understanding the main differences between 301, 302, 303, and 307 redirects is valuable for both effective SEO and smoothly managing websites. Each code signals to browsers and search engines how to handle the redirect optimally. With a robust redirect manager like SiteDetour, you can customize redirects with the right status code for every situation.