Google Releases Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide; Uses 302 Redirect as Example

Google Google, via a recent blog post, has recently released their search engine optimization starter guide to the public. Previously a document that first began as an effort to help teams within Google, this document aims to be a guide that we can follow to find tips that could improve our sites’ crawlability and indexing.

There are a lot of good basic search engine optimization tips in this Google SEO starter guide. However, apparently Google engineers don’t know everything: the example site noted in the guide is set up as a 302 Temporary Redirect to the Google.com home page. OOPS! This is not something that you ever want to do. In fact, Matt Cutts has talked about 302 Redirects several times and it’s actually been a major issue not only with Google but with other search engines.

So, I would like to be the first to say (just like Bill Engvall says): Google, Here’s Your Sign!

Bill Engvall Here's Your Sign Let me explain this a bit further for those of you who don’t know the differences between the different types ways that you can redirect a web page to another web page.

There are several types of ways that you can “automatically” redirect visitors from one web page to another web page. There are also many reasons why you would want to redirect a web page to another one, like when you buy a domain name and need to redirect people to your current web site (rather than just letting a domain name “sit there” idle). But, whatever you do, I strongly recommend that you always ALWAYS use a 301 Permanent Redirect rather than using a 302 Temporary Redirect to redirect visitors and search engines. There are also other types of redirects like a “meta refresh” and the use of JavaScript code to do the redirecting.

Matt Cutts has said on his blog that URL canonicalization is an issue: and he said it back in 2006. You might want to read Matt’s blog post about it if you’re not familiar with it.

As I was reading the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, the author explains:

An example may help our explanations, so we’ve created a fictitious website to follow throughout the guide. For each topic, we’ve fleshed out enough information about the site to illustrate the point being covered. Here’s some background information about the site we’ll use:

* Website/business name: “Brandon’s Baseball Cards”
* Domain name: brandonsbaseballcards.com

As someone who is very inquisitive, I immediately looked up Brandon’s Baseball Cards to see if Google had actually registered that domain name: and yes, it was purchased a few days before the Google Starter Search Engine Optimization Guide was released. It’s owned by Brandon Falls, Search Quality Analyst II at Google. This makes sense; Brandon Falls wrote the guide, registered a domain name to use and set up the domain name: and redirected it the WRONG way to Google.com.

If you run the domain name through this tool, you will see what a search engine sees when they visit a web page (along with the page’s “headers”). Upon checking the server headers (the redirect) to verify what type of redirect is being used, I found that there is a 302 Temporary Redirect being used, not a 301 Permanent Redirect. Here’s the actual header data (just in case it’s actually updated by Brandon Falls at Google after reading this):

Google SEO Starter Guide 302 Redirect Google in the past has been notorious for having issues with 302 Redirects. My search engine optimization suggest/tip is that you always use a 301 Permanent Redirect: if you use anything else to redirect visitors you’re hurting your site’s potential search engine rankings.

In this case, Google’s Brandon Falls registered a domain name and set up the wrong type of redirect to redirect visitors to Google.com because this example web site is not live right now. The redirecting is probably a good thing to do: but the type of redirect being used is not being used. If you take a look at the server headers on the domain name, you’ll see that not only does it redirect with a 302 Temporary Redirect it actually redirects to another URL (some page named ?3dbdb1c0 that then redirects again with another 302 Temporary Redirect to Google.com. This is not recommended, and I am extremely surprised that a Google Search Engineer would not set up the proper redirect.

So, Google and Brandon Falls: Here’s Your Sign!

Update November 19, 2008 I’m not sure if this has anything to do with our post, but it appears that Google has now changed the redirect from a 302 Temporary Redirect to a 301 Permanent Redirect.

  • Bill,

    This is an excellent blog post and some great resources you mentioned throughout. Nice to see Big G putting out a basic SEO guide. It'll either help do-it-yourselfers get off on the right foot or help them differentiate the good SEOs from the scammers.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Kenton

  • Thanks for this, Bill! I didn't know about the guide. Good tips here to help us to improve our SEO.

  • Actually, that 302 is a deliberate choice. We didn't want some Google critic saying "Oh, Google is trying to get links from a site with a completely different topic that has nothing to do with Google." Good to know that we'll be criticized either way. 😉

  • Matt, interesting comment: I had no idea that setting up the 302 redirect instead of a 301 would be a deliberate choice.

    There certainly other options, like putting up a page on the site and not linking out?

  • Hey Bill,

    Yes, I agree with you in setting up a 301 redirect instead of a 302 would be a smarter choice for people like me who wants to get their web site noticed. Good read!

  • chris boggs

    hmm now that I see it has been changed to a 301 I am really confused. I was buying Matt's "we did it on purpose" because I figured eventually that "Brandon" may put his own content up there…maybe even about baseball cards. A temporary redirect for people that would have looked up the domain as a result of seeing the Google guide then makes sense. But then again, the Google SEO guide isn't going anywhere, so why would you ever want to use the domain? The idea that the "though-links" (via 301) would not be relevant may not really be accurate, since many of the links that end up getting generated to the site would likely be in articles/blog posts discussing Google's SEO guide. Voila relevance via text proximity, and more reinforcement to that nice PR10. 🙂

  • You're right, Chris, now that it has been changed I am confused too. Don't know why Matt Cutts would say that they did it on purpose and then change it.

    All I know is that it's now a 301 Permanent Redirect, which I've always advocated all along: I never have like the 302 redirect.

  • Rathn

    I have this exact issue with Opera and Google as of Today. It redirects and because of that sometimes it loses the history back and I have to go back to google.com rather than the search results.

    If i disable automatic redirection then I get a 302 moved here page!

    Google – fix it…

  • Y8

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