301s, 302s, PageRank and a Whole Lot of Confusion

301s, 302s, PageRank and a Whole Lot of Confusion

Gary Illyes certainly caused a stir when he tweeted the below:


So much so, that it was reported in Search Engine Land that Google have officially stated “There is no PageRank dilution when using a 301, 302 or 30x redirects anymore”.

However, we believe the headline to be a misrepresentation of what has been said, and would like to offer up our interpretation, based on the evidence in front of us.

SEL’s main claims are:

  • 301s don’t dilute PageRank
  • 302s don’t dilute PageRank

Our assertion:

  • 301s do dilute PageRank by the same, or a greater percentage as a standard link
  • 302s may pass some PageRank, but in most cases this should not be the same as the amount passed by a 301 or a hyperlink. Furthermore in most cases, any PageRank passed via a 302 will be irrelevant due to the way Google treats 302 pages in its index.

Claim #1 – 301’s don’t dilute PageRank

Matt Cutts has previously explained how the PageRank calculation through 301 redirects is the same as the calculation that takes place between two pages and a normal hyperlink.

In other words, if for example 80% of the total PageRank could be passed between Page A and Page B, and a single link connected those pages, then Page B would receive 80% of the accumulated PageRank of Page A (or 100% of the total value available as “passable” PageRank).

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Of course, the more links you add to the page, the less PageRank is shared between each of them, but the principle remains the same – 80% of the total PageRank of Page A is available to pages it links to.

So if what Matt Cutts says is true, then a redirect also passes roughly 80% of the available PageRank to the target page (or 100% of the total “passable value”) in exactly the same way.
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This was even referenced in the SEL article, and as far as we’re aware, nothing has happened to suggest that there is no longer any loss of PageRank between redirects.


This makes sense for Google because ultimately, it helps remove the incentive to try and manipulate the flow of PageRank by using redirects in a way they weren’t intended.

Claim #2 – 302’s pass PageRank with no loss or dilution

John Mueller stated previously on Google+ that 302’s do indeed pass PageRank.

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The key here is that at no point was it suggested that the same amount of PageRank would be passed via a 302, as through a 301.

When we take into account that John Mueller has mentioned before that Google will sometimes treat a 302 as a 301, this tells us that a 301 and 302 are actually treated differently (if they weren’t, why would Google only sometimes treat one as the other?).

Therefore, it could be the case that the amount of PageRank passed via a 302 is greater than zero, but less than a 301. And in cases where Google believes a webmaster is using a 302 incorrectly, it may allow for more PageRank to pass through, up to, but not beyond the percentage that a 301 can.

But does this matter?

Actually, we believe that discussing PageRank passed during a 302 is almost irrelevant.

This is because the way in which Google treats 301 and 302 redirect in its index is more important than the amount of “juice” that you’re trying to retain.

A page that results in a 302 will still see the original page appear in Google’s index – the destination page after the redirect wouldn’t rank in its place unless that redirect becomes permanent (a 301).

Here’s an example below, that you can test yourself:

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The page displayed in the SERPs will return a 302 – so no matter what the percentage of PageRank it is passing to its destination page – the destination page isn’t and doesn’t rank. In fact, it isn’t even indexed:

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Finally, when John Mueller says that Gary Illyes is “not giving us any new information, but rather confirming it” then it seems apparent that nothing has really changed in the information that both he and Matt Cutts have previously supplied us with, and until there’s any evidence to the contrary, we’ll continue to use 301s and 302s in the traditional way.

James Newhouse

James heads up our Natural Search team and is a shareholder in the business.

He has worked across a broad range of sectors, including gaming, publishing and retail. During his time at Receptional, James has acted in a training capacity for one of the UKs largest high street & online retailers, as well as a consultant for “Magic Circle” law firms.

When not planning SEO campaigns, James enjoys board games with his two brothers, wife and three children.

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