Want To Switch to a New Domain? 301 Redirects vs. 302 Redirects

Jan 18, 2007 • 11:55 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Well respected SEO, Scottie Claiborne, wrote a guest article for Jill Whalen's popular newsletter named Switching to a New Domain Without Losing Your Google Rankings. In her article, Scottie recommends using a 302 redirect temporarily, so that Google keeps your current rankings in place. Here is her direct advice:

By using a 302 "temporarily moved" response instead of a 301, the original URL will remain in Google's index, and maintain its position as if the page were still there. However, visitors who click on the link will be brought to your new URL, exactly where you want them to be. It's the best of both worlds -- you retain your rankings during that interim aging period, but visitors are redirected to the updated and correct domain.

Once the 302-redirect is in place, it's imperative to start a linking campaign for the new site. You'll need links pointing to it in order for it to be ready to rank highly when it's released from the aging filter. When you notice the new domain starting to show up in the rankings (anywhere from 6-12 months, typically) then it's time to contact your previous linking partners to update their links from the old domain to the new one.

Once the new domain has properly aged, go back and change the 302-temporary redirect to a 301-permanent redirect.

I have heard that this used to work about a year ago. But I honestly would never recommend this action.

It is an old article, and is dated as such, so be careful with old articles. Things that may have worked in the past, may kill you in the future.

A recent High Rankings thread shows one member giving this method a try. He claimed it bombed badly;

As per Scotty's advice, I set up a 302 redirect exactly as described and all went well until about a week ago. Google saw fit to remove all of the pages that were 302'd from the search results. The pages are still indexed, but they aren't even on page 10,000 of results that we used to rank #1 for.

So I figured I do some research as well as ask Google for some information on what to do in this specific situation.

(1) http://books.google.com/webmasters/3.html number 2 says:

2. I migrated my website to a new URL.

If you've changed your URL, or plan to, and would like Google to display your new URL, please keep in mind that we can't manually change your listed address in our search results. That said, there are steps you can take to make sure your transition is smooth.

If your old URLs redirect to your new site using HTTP 301 (permanent) redirects, our crawler will discover the new URLs. For more information about 301 HTTP redirects, please see http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2616.txt.

Google listings are based in part on our ability to find you from links on other sites. To preserve your rank and help our crawler find your new URL, you'll want to inform others who link to you of your change of address. To find a sampling of sites that link to yours, perform a link search by entering "link:[your full URL]" into the Google search box. To find more pages that mention your URL, perform a Google search on your URL and select the "Find web pages that contain the term" link. Also, don't forget to change any entries you may have in directories such as Yahoo! or the Open Directory Project.

Finally, you may submit a list of your new URLs through the Google Sitemaps (Beta) program. Google Sitemaps uses webmaster-generated Sitemap files to learn about your webpages and to direct our crawlers to new and updated content.

Sometimes during site transitions, we'll fail to find a site at its new address. Just be sure that others are linking to you, and we should discover your new site.

(2) A post by Vanessa Fox named More about changing domain names:

Recently, someone asked me about moving from one domain to another. He had read that Google recommends using a 301 redirect to let Googlebot know about the move, but he wasn't sure if he should do that. He wondered if Googlebot would follow the 301 to the new site, see that it contained the same content as the pages already indexed from the old site, and think it was duplicate content (and therefore not index it). He wondered if a 302 redirect would be a better option.

I told him that a 301 redirect was exactly what he should do. A 302 redirect tells Googlebot that the move is temporary and that Google should continue to index the old domain. A 301 redirect tells Googlebot that the move is permanent and that Google should start indexing the new domain instead. Googlebot won't see the new site as duplicate content, but as moved content. And that's exactly what someone who is changing domains wants.

So 301 is recommended.

Other advice given to me by Google based on my recent request is to read the following blog posts:

So please be cautious when moving domain names. 301 is the safest best, even though it may take several months to get right.

I want to thank Ben for his help here, he may come in later and add his thoughts...

Forum discussion at High Rankings.

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01/18/2007 07:56 pm

What Google says to do and what works best for a site aren't always the same thing. Surely, you know that, Barry? If there were no aging delay (and also when the aging delay is over) then a 301 is definitely the way to go. But unless they've recently gotten rid of the aging delay, the 302 is still apparently the best way to preserve rankings when you have to switch to a brand new domain from an old one. It's certainly possible that they recently changed something over the past few months, but according to Scottie, she's seen the 302 method as described in her article still work at least up through a few months ago. Jill

Barry Schwartz

01/18/2007 08:08 pm

Like I said, this used to work. But if Google changed something, then it can be a very bad outcome for the site owner. I asked Google what they thought and they sent me those articles. I personally would not try a 302 method for my clients.


01/18/2007 08:29 pm

I have noticed in some cases, a site that uses 302-redirects for it's "vanity" urls are in the top 10 for some relatively competitive terms. These redirects have been in place for at least 3 years. What gives?


01/18/2007 10:13 pm

I recently did my first 301 redirect and it worked great. Ranks slipped a little, but the brand new domain picked up the previous domain's Page Ranks as well. I am confident the rankings will recover as well.

Joshua Steimle

01/19/2007 01:28 am

We recently relaunched www.mwi.com using 301 redirects for the subpages since we were changing the entire site's file structure. I figured we might have a temporary blip in our rankings but that things would recover quickly enough. There was an even smaller blip than I expected. The new pages were indexed very quickly with very minimal effects on our rankings, and some pages didn't see any blip to rankings whatsoever, in fact some improved immediately upon the new page being indexed. So I'm a 301 fan myself.

Jonathan Kemp

01/19/2007 02:55 pm

Good job on debunking this Barry.

Bryan Boettiger

10/02/2007 06:17 pm

A client of ours has a website that is a few years old but is expanding it into an ecommerce site and changing the URL. The content will change and the site will grow accordingly. The current site has some links but doesnt have much of a presence in the SERPs, is a server side 301 redirect the best option here?


10/11/2007 02:07 am

1 week ago i switch my domain which was 3d in google runking to a new domain, i was wondering will my new domain inherit the old ranking as well ?

Marius Iftode

12/23/2007 11:29 am

Great advice , thanks , I suspected this was the case but now i am certain. Good work bringing this to us


03/31/2009 10:44 am

I did a 301 two months ago and rankings haven't come back yet. Traffic jumped for the first 2 weeks and then nothing. I do everything to make sure site is search engine friendly but it doesn't seems to pay off. Any recommendations?


11/02/2009 05:54 pm

I have tried both 301 and 302 redirects in several domain migrations. It is clear that 301 redirect means a light or an heavy fall in ranking on google serps. 302 redirect allows you to keep the original domain trust and to keep the previous ranking. How long should it last? I don't know, at least a year, in the meanwhile you should do a link building activity for your new domain and then pray wehn you decide to switch to 301 (but, IMHO, switching is not mandatory ). 302 is the solution to keep google ranking, that's for sure.

No Name

02/05/2010 03:20 am

Yes, the operative question is how long should a 301 or 302 stay in place? Are we talking months or years?

Opre hol

08/02/2010 11:40 pm

If there is a domain "abc" and it is directed to "xyz" and a person search for abc from google then which page will be shown either abc or xyz.. is there any example of 301 redirect/?

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