Many webmasters would agree that a 302 does not pass PageRank. However a recent blogpost at Search Engine Land and our own experiences at Arena Quantum may suggest otherwise. A 302 is used for a temporary redirect, and accordingly on paper should not pass PageRank. However what if the 302 redirect is in place for over two years? Would Google ignore the temporary classification of the redirect and change it to permanent? Our experience would indicate so. Consider the following example:
For whatever reason, when a high street brand created its website, it was decided that when a request for the root URL was made, it would redirect and serve content from two subfolders deep, with each subfolder containing relevant keywords (facepalm). This redirect would be done with a 302, as seen below:
302 redirect / www.example.com/widgets/blue/index.php
Overlooking the fact content of the homepage should be served without redirects, (constraints imposed), it was our recommendation that this redirect should be changed to a 301 permanent. In theory, all links pointing to www.example.com would make it the strongest page on the site, but the link equity would not pass to the page that served the content, thus creating a PageRank dam. This theory is consistent with the experience of Tedster who stated he had worked with several large sites where “the PageRank stayed on the domain root for all of them”. The root domain for our client had 618 different domains pointing to it, from links from major publications including The Guardian. Potentially, this could be big.
Imagine our excitement. We’d identified the required change of redirect, got it implemented and waited for the ‘dam of PageRank’ to be unleashed, making the strength of deeper pages much stronger. Alas not. It’s been three months now and we have seen no impact. With consideration to the fact that the 302 had been in place for several years, it supports the theory that possibly after a given period of time, Google will start treating the 302 redirect as if it was a 301. It’s no surprise that this client had a number of other old 302 redirects for deeper pages. We made these 301 redirects too with no identifiable impact.
Do longstanding 302 redirects start to flow PageRank? It’s something that needs considering. Perhaps treating aged 302 redirects as permanent improves the quality of the link graph as a reference for Google to counter improper use of redirects.