302 Redirects Pass Link Equity

Over the past three and a half months, I have been looking at how Google treats 302 redirects. My initial test was to see if a page that reports a 302 HTTP response code would retain its rankings. I quickly found that the page actually dropped out of the rankings, quickly killing this theory.

302 Redirects

What I found, however, was counter to everything that I’ve been told and tested before, which is the commonly accepted assumption that 302’s don’t pass link equity/PageRank. My tests suggest they do in certain situations, at least for a period of time.

While Page 1 dropped out of the SERPs, Page 2 appeared. With these results I performed a couple tests looking at rankings when 302’s and 301’s were applied.  (If you’re lazy there’s a conclusion at the bottom).

Test 1A: 302 Redirect to a Related Page

For this test, I utilized my old website from my independent consultant days – I did a 302 redirect from the homepage of my Santa Barbara SEO site to the consulting page on this blog. The homepage of my old site was very targeted for the term ‘Santa Barbara SEO’, and despite that I no longer live there, the page typically ranked second or third for the term. Comparatively, my consulting page on this site should not rank for ‘Santa Barbara SEO’, but I would guess that Google associates the page, and more largely my site, with the high level topic of SEO.

Do 302 Redirects Pass Link Equity?

Contrary to what I expected, I started to see geoffkenyon.com/seo-consulting/ ranking for two of the three phrases I was tracking, ‘Santa Barbara SEO’ and ‘Lighthouse SEO’, with respective rankings of 21 and 3 (compared to ‘normal’ of 3 and 2).

While these rankings aren’t that strong, it’s important to remember that www.lighthouseseo.org is a pretty weak site. There is only one root domain linking to lighthouseseo.org with the anchor text ‘Santa Barbara SEO’ and only three root domains linking with anchor text containing ‘lighthouse seo’.

Open Site Explorer Screen Shot

Test 1B: 301 Redirect to a Related Page

I repeated the same test but simply changed the 302 to a 301 redirect.

302 Redirect Pass PageRank

This showed significantly more link equity was being passed through the 301 redirect than the 302 redirect. The chart below shows the rankings for different queries when a 302 redirect and 301 redirect are applied to geoffkenyon.com/seo-consulting/

Ranking Results 301 Redirect vs 302 Redirect

As you can tell the 301 redirect passes significantly more value than the 302 redirect though it is near impossible to reverse engineer exactly how much value.

Test 2A: 302 Redirect to an Unrelated Page

The previous test provided some pretty interesting results but I wanted to try it again and make sure that it wasn’t a fluke. For this version, I wanted to try it on a domain that was not relevant and had less Domain Authority. I chose Coast Mechanical, a water treatment service in Atascadero, as a ‘partner’ since it fulfilled both of these requirements.

302 to Coast Mechanical

This produced a few weird results. The first was that Coast Mechanical did not rank at all. Rather lighthouseseo.org continued to rank, but it defaulted to the rankings observed when the page was 302’d to geoffkenyon.com/seo-consulting/.  While the URL ranking was lighthouseseo.org, the title was simply ‘Lighthouse SEO’, not the optimized title, and the meta description was pulled from the Coast Mechanical meta description.

Lighthouse SEO - wrong URL Day 2

Test 2B: 301 Redirect to an Unrelated Page

Again, I repeated this test, but changed the 302 redirect to a 301 redirect.

Lighthouse SEO 301 Redirect to Coast Mechanic

This time Google ignored the redirect. No link equity was passed to Coast Mechanical but Lighthouse SEO was removed from the search results.  I think I had implemented too many redirects in too short of a time span and Google didn’t place trust in my most recent redirect.

Conclusions

From these tests, it looks as if 302 redirects pass link equity, though it is significantly less than the amount passed through a 301 redirect. Though the 302 passes some link equity or PageRank, you should still use 301 redirects as they pass more value.  It also looks like if you have a page and redirect it to different places several times within a certain time frame, Google will stop trusting your redirects.

 

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17 Comments

  1. Great data. Always hard to do this on a big scale but I’d like to see it replicated on multiple sites to see what other insights can be gathered.

    Whenever I’m discussing the value of 302 or nofollow links from sites that are highly authoritative, this is the explanation I typically use:

    “It may or may not pass pagerank, but Google has a deep and reliable history of ignoring websites’ technical commands when it feels they are incorrect: title tags, meta descriptions, robots.txt, etc. Google has plenty of examples of ignoring all of them. Aside from that, it’s still a clickable link.”

    So additional things that come to my mind when reading these results:

    1) 302 redirects are supposed to be temporary by definition. I’d like to see these results tested over a 3-6 month period to see if the benefits are temporary in nature, and if they slope off in any manner after a certain time has elapsed.

    2) for 302 redirects coming through a URL that has never existed, are these benefits still applicable? Specifically I’m thinking of a wide number of niche directories that use 302 redirects on links going out. Your tests were done when an existing URL was suddenly redirected. I’d wonder if it would apply to these redirect URLs that never produced a 200 result in the past

    3) It’s difficult to know exactly what is getting passed – pagerank, or another form of link equity, or perhaps just ranking benefits in general. A test for this might involve redirecting a high pagerank page to a zero pagerank page and wait ing for toolbar Pagerank to update. If toolbar pagerank updates, then pagerank appears to be the value that is being passed. If it doesn’t update or is still 0 or NA, then perhaps it’s another value being passed along.

    4) I’d like to see how these redirects benefited the other keywords that the pages were ranking for. So, if you page B is ranking for “buy ipads” and suddenly gets a 302 redirect from page A that was ranking for “mink coats”, does the redirect value affect the rankings for “buy ipads”? Secondly, if page C was ranking for “ipad accessories” and is redirected to page B, does page B gain a rankings boost for “buy ipads” since the content is now more relevant?

    Thanks for prompting so many testing ideas. Hoping someone takes these ideas and runs with them and builds off of your testing to see if these results are repeatable.

    Reply
    • All good ideas Kane. I’d love to see these test, just to find someone with all the sites :) I think with the first one, it could go either way – either decrease or increase over time (like Bing does)

      Reply
  2. Awesome study. I wonder if 302s pass penalties at the page level too then.

    Reply
    • It would make sense – enough people do 302’s without realizing they should be doing 301’s

      Reply
  3. It’s interesting to see that 302’s redirect send link juice to the new page. But if I need to choose between a 302 or a 301, I will choose the 2nde one to be sure to send the link juice.

    Thank you for your study Geoff ;)

    Arnaud, from France

    Reply
  4. Great insight, I would love to see a bit more information on this. It almost seems google is doing it random. Still working on my coffee will have to re-read later

    Reply
  5. This has interesting implications for links that go through redirecting scripts- they are often 302 redirects.

    Reply
  6. Interesting Test. What Sounds interesting is as well, how Google Händlers The T&Ds. I knospt is Hard to say but from a gut Feeling World you say that , if a 301 Passes 90% of link Juice then i.e a 302 Passes like 25% linkjuice

    Alexander from Germany

    Reply
  7. Nice post.

    Do you think that 302 redirect will pass a penalty too?

    We know that probably a 301 redirect will pass any penalties with it to the new page.

    Reply
    • I haven’t tested this but it would make sense – so many people do 302’s instead of 301’s because they don’t know any better. It really makes sense for search engines to start treating them the same.

      Reply
  8. Redirects do not pass penalties. Redirects pass PageRank, so if you redirect filtered domain to completely new domain you will have the same link profile, and this will cause penalty on the new website.

    Reply
    • Hey Tom, I’ve seen 301’s pass penalties for a while and 302 pass penalties more recently as well (unfortunately).

      Reply
  9. I was just notified of this John Mueller video from 2012 where he states that 302 redirects pass Page Rank. Had anyone else seen/heard this?

    Reply
    • I just was referred to that video also, and now found this post. Well researched, Geoff, and thanks fro writing it up. The topic came up while considering a disavow, theorizing that we 302 a bunch of inbound affiliate links instead of disavowing them.

      Reply
      • Hey Scott – Affiliate links are a bit tough. Outside of asking them to nf their links, with a bit of work, you could set all affiliate links to go to a folder blocked by robots.txt (or even a different domain) and then redirect (301 would be fine as bots wouldn’t be able to follow the redirect) to the proper page.

        ex – affiliate link: http://abc-co.com/aff/product-12 redirects to abc-co.com/product-12 (or abc-co-aff.com/product-12 > abc-co.com/product-12).

        Reply
  10. Yeah, this is an interesting finding, just at the right time for me, because I’m dealing with redirects now. I know that 301 is much better than 302 for SEO, but what do you think, can a link chain of two 301 redirects pass good portion of link juice from authority website (PA and DA > 40), which has around 90% of relevance with the redirected page?
    Best regards,
    Darko

    Reply
    • Since we know 301 redirects don’t pass all value and equity from one URL to another, using multiple redirects will inherently result in a lower amount of equity passed than if you only used one redirect. If a 301 redirect passes 85% of the equity associated with a URL, one redirect would give you .85x, two would be .7225x, three would be .6141x. As you can see, when you do multiple redirects, the amount of equity lost quickly adds up.

      It’s also worth noting that Google has said if you’re stacking “4-5″ redirects, they’ll probably stop following them so you won’t end up with any value if you’re doing that

      Reply

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