Domain redirect types
Last updated on: 2021-05-24
Authored by: John Abercrombie
First, what is a redirect? When you want to point your visitors from one domain or link to another, that is a redirect. For example, if I want someone who types in http://www.bluefox.com to go to http://www.redsun.com, I would use a redirect for the job. This works for both HTTP and HTTPS URLs.
This article explains each of these types and why you might use each one.
The 301 is a permanent redirect. Typically, you use this when you move a website from one domain to another, and you want your visitors to follow your website to its new location. This particular type is search-engine friendly, and it’s efficient for website redirection.
Examples of when to use a 301 redirect:
- Your website has moved to a new domain, and you want a seamless transition.
- You have different URLs that point to the same main URL. Customer portals use this setup. As an example, mycloud.rackspace.com, portal.rackspace.com, and login.rackspace.com all point to the same site: login.rackspace.com/login.
- You want to merge two of your websites and redirect outdated URLs to the most current ones.
The 302 is a temporary redirect used when you want to reroute traffic from one site to another temporarily. Search engines make a note of the original URL when routing a 302 redirect in search results.
Examples of when to use a 302 redirect:
- Your website is down for maintenance, and you have a backup page that you use when this occurs.
- You are in the middle of a transition moving your site, but the second site is not fully live, so you redirect traffic back to the original site until your second site is ready.
- You want to maintain a central hub page that has offshoot pages with changing content, such as sale deals. Instead of changing your website all the time, you can put up a secondary sale page and temporarily redirect your visitors from the main hub page to the current sale page.
Two other names for our third redirect are URL cloaking and URL masking. This method is frowned upon by SEO algorithms for search engines. Why? It basically allows you to place your domain over top of another website. For example, the website you are looking at is rackspace.com, but what you see in the browser URL bar is www.greenskybluegrass.com. When the URL and the website content do not match, this is a key indicator that a URL Frame redirect is happening.
Another reason why search engines do not like this redirect is that it causes duplicate content. Your domain and the masked domain show up as the same page, and search engines pick one over the other. Search engines do not show two domains with the same content.
Fortunately, not all websites allow masking, and there are ways to prevent anyone from masking your domains at the server level.
Our final type is not actually a redirect type, although many people think of it as one. The difference between a CNAME and the other redirects is that the CNAME is a DNS record while the redirects are server-level configurations. The CNAME points your domain to an IP address. Instead of actually redirecting one domain to another, it copies the DNS records of the targeted domain.
A common misconception is that a CNAME record displays the targeted domain’s website. That is not the case. The CNAME record merely points the DNS of the second domain to the IP address of the target domain. After a visitor reaches the IP address, the webserver decides what the visitor sees. If the admin set nothing up for the second domain within the web server, virtual host, or server block, the server displays its default page. This could end up being the target domain if the configuration files of the webserver denote the target domain’s web page as the default web page. However, that is not the default.
Be cautious when using CNAME records. Don’t use a CNAME record for a plain domain, such as bluesky.com. Doing this causes any other records for that domain to become invisible. The workaround for this would be to create a CNAME record for www.bluesky.com and then use a redirect for sending traffic to bluesky.com.
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