Why don't people use 301 redirects?

I have just completely revamped the NZ Coastguard boating education website tonight.

When I say "revamped", I mean make substantial changes to the backend with virtually no changes to how it looks - if anyone notices anything new, I'll be surprised. Clients aren't going to notice the new nice URLs, the new CSS based layout, the fact that it's quite a bit lighter, it validates, it has client side validation on the contact form or any of those other good things.
I'll bet they notice the spam prevention mods in the forums though :)

301 redirects

Anyway, 301 redirects. As part of any major upgrade where you are renaming URLs, it's not a bad idea to run a spider through the site and make sure you haven't missed anything.
I recommend Xenu for this.

I was surprised at what I found on the outbound links...

redirected to: https://coastguard.e-member.cc/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=coastguard/main.w
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.coastguard.org.nz/home/home_default.asp
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.metservice.com/default/index.php
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.arc.govt.nz/harbourmaster/
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.yachtlifeline.com/index.php?section=1
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.arc.govt.nz/arc/auckland-region/harbourmaster/maritime-operations_home.cfm
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

redirected to: http://www.nmit.ac.nz/
status code: 302 (object temporarily moved)

Yes, they all use a 302 redirect.

This surprises me as many of these sites are large organisations in New Zealand.

I can almost understand using a 302 on a subpage of your site to catch any missed visitors - this is lazy, but it does the trick and no real harm done (using a 301 redirect would be better as the link juice would be transferred).

But what I don't get is sites where the domain root or homepage redirects to another page. There are several things wrong with this approach...
  • Spammers use 302 redirects to trick search engines. Do you want to look like a spammer?
  • It looks weird when your homepage url is not www.example.com - it just ain't right.
  • Your www.example.com URL and the URL it redirects to will be competing for links. Neither address will rank as strongly

In simple terms, a 301 redirect is used when a URL changes permanently. If you use the 301 redirect, you are telling the search engines your intent to remove the old page from the index, and add the new page to the index. You also tell them to transfer any link juice from the old URL to the new.

Basically it's about keeping a tidy house. Your homepage should be your homepage - not index.php or home/home_default.asp

To all web developers out there - it's not that hard to do a 301 redirect when a page moves. Really.

Check out how your site is redirecting using my new redirect check tool.
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