Can 302 Redirects Pass PageRank?

Posted by bowdeni in SEO Added October 11, 2010

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.

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3 Responses

  • I’ve read somewhere in the past that a 302 redirect on a root domain to a sub page was the best way of doing a root domain action like you have described – as you actually want the root URL appearing in the SERP and not the one that appears as the deeper page.

    Now that it is 301′d does the sub page appear for the root page of the site, or is still the / ?

    I had a client redirect a domain using a 302 redirect for all pages to new domain, using Google Webmaster Tools as well to tell them about the change of address.

    Net result – they really didnt lose too many rankings on the head type terms that they were optimising for – and some of these improved fairly swiftly after the launch. Toolbar PR transferred to the new domain much more swiftly than I had expected.

    However, the long tail took a massive hit – and 7 months on still hasn’t fully recovered.

    I suspect that it depends on the context here – with the changing of the domain and the notification in Google it was clear that something was passed as a result – which in truth surprised me, as I was tearing my hair out trying to get the projects dev’s to change them to 301s. Sadly it wasnt something they were ever able to change…

  • bowdeni says:

    The recommendation to use a 302 in this instance comes from the Google Webmaster Central Forum.

    In this instance, with the use of the 301 redirect the domain root URL remains in the index.

  • I knew that I had seen it somewhere official-ish.

    Quite intrigued that it remained as the root domain even with the 301 – clearly Google understood that it was the domain home page and treat it in the SERPs accordingly – which is the same as you see with the 302.

    So it likely works the same way.



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