If you’re a frequent Internet user, then you surely at least once found yourself in a situation when you saw a plain page that contains text with, for example, status code 307 and a ‘Temporary Redirect’ message or the like instead of seeing an expected web page. Such messages are actually HTTP status placeholders that notify users about unusual situations on the server where the website resides.
You can see status code 300 notification or status code 302 found text instead of a website. Those codes appear as a response to situations when the website was moved and the webmaster set up a redirect that was not renewed or applied properly at the time your device sent a request. It’s only temporary and usually the issue is resolved as soon as you refresh a page. And if you don’t want to be confused by it, you should gain more knowledge about such situations and meanings of those codes.
Overview of 3xx Status Codes
Definition of Redirection Codes
Various text messages from 3XX group hold various meanings, but all of them are related to the redirection procedure followed by the change of the website structure - from folder internal changes to switching to another hosting server. For example, status code 304 that’s followed by ‘Not Modified’ text means that nothing was changed on the website and it’s just a minor issue that’ll be solved upon webpage refresh.
On the other hand, 302 response code that’s coupled with the ‘Found’ text appears in the browser when the resource was moved elsewhere temporarily, usually during maintenance. And when there are serious issues like misconfigured redirects or misguided requests, users can see something like 303 status code with the ‘See Other’ text, meaning that the redirect is following to another page instead of the one user wanted.
There are a lot of codes and text messages following them, and some of those contain direct instructions about the actions the user should take to resolve the issue. This is needed to guide users and lower the negative experience in case of emergencies.
Common Use Cases
Despite it being a somewhat bad situation for users, sometimes redirecting is essential for the website to improve its performance or stability. And it is an unavoidable procedure when the website is growing and needs a thorough restructuring, for example, or content relocation. And for users the response code 302 text is a frequent occasion in such situations.
Of course, redirection is also unavoidable when the page or the site as a whole is relocated to a different server. This will cause status code 301 and a text ‘Moved Permanently’ to appear instead of a page, and it will mean that the URL was moved. Although, users won’t usually see it, because it reroutes their requests almost instantly.
List of 3xx Status Codes and Their Meanings
300 - Multiple Choices
Whenever you see the 300 status code in your browser, it means that the server can’t handle your device’s query in a singular way and presents a number of solutions for the situation. Basically, this 300 response code is a method to tell the webmasters that there are issues with the page setup or loaded files that need to be resolved. Sometimes, from a user’s standpoint, it could be resolved whenever you reload the page - the user's browser could possibly pick the most suitable way to continue the redirect and use it as a basis. Otherwise, the webmaster should fix it server-side.
301 - Moved Permanently
Pretty obvious from the text, status code 301 points out that the URL was moved elsewhere on a permanent basis and won’t be accessible from the same location. Usually this message is literally unnoticeable by users as redirects are followed to the correct location. But sometimes this text with 301 status code shows for a moment and disappears instantly or upon page reloading.
This code text, if it appears frequently on the same page, must be fixed by the webmaster to maintain link integrity. Especially if the website is SEO-oriented. Otherwise search engines won’t be able to parse the page adequately.
302 - Found (Moved Temporarily)
The appearance of the 302 response code means that the processing of the query ended with a successful completion and the searched data or source were found on the server, but not where they should be initially. Therefore, the redirection sequence ended with the text containing 302 status code showing to the user.
In such situations, classically for the 3xx array of messages, page renewal should solve the issue from the user’s standpoint, because it’s actually a predecessor for a temporary redirect code. On the other hand, the webmaster should fix the issue ASAP if it starts showing up when the redirection period ends or it becomes permanent.
303 - See Other
Particularly unusual and rarely showing to users, status code 303 texts that the URL follows the wrong direction and the queried page could be found elsewhere. Basically, it means that the browser should issue another GET request to the server - or, user-wise, the reloading of the page is needed.
Usually, 303 response code happens when the site was permanently relocated and the redirect was not processed with the proper speed. Sometimes it’s a simple network mishap, sometimes it’s a slight hardware performance loss, and sometimes it’s just an accident. And the webmaster should fix all related issues to prevent this from happening.
304 - Not Modified
Sometimes there are situations when the source was intact, but redirection was already set up - that’s when 304 response code happens, pointing to this fact. Often, users don’t see it at all, like with other text codes in the category, but sometimes it shows up. Basically, it’s a misconfiguration on the server-side and the webmaster should fix it.
Usually it happens when the temporary redirection period ends and the link returns to normal state, but the connection keeps rerouting due to settings not being reverted to the initial state. But sometimes 304 status code appears when nothing has changed at all, but server software thinks that there is a redirection.
307 - Temporary Redirect
Basically, this text with 307 status code is similar to the 302 text, but this one has a fixed query method or, basically, doesn’t allow the usage of other HTTP methods. But in all other things this response is pretty much the same as its predecessor. It shows that the source was found but was temporarily placed in the other location inside the server folder structure. In most cases for users it means that the requested page is on maintenance and will be accessible later or even instantly right after reloading the page. Therefore, there are not too many chances for users to encounter 307 response code text.
308 - Permanent Redirect
This text, 308 response code, is actually a more refined and proper alternative to 301, just like 307 is for 302. And the succeeding response works literally in the same way - it doesn’t allow switching to any other HTTP method, meaning that it has a strict caching requirement despite having the same conditions for showing up. All and all, this text notifies users that the page was moved on a constant basis and won’t be accessible from the old location anymore. Therefore, users usually don’t see it, but SERP parsers do, and the webmaster should fix the source of the issue ASAP or it could cause some serious issues with SEO optimization of the website.
Why Redirection Codes Appear
Basically, all 3XX codes are used as a means to improve users' experience whenever there's resource maintenance, including changing the internal structure, URL addresses and even relocating the whole website to other services. And in most possible scenarios and situations the user will either see a status code 302 whenever there’s a local maintenance or 301 response code whenever the site is completely relocated or restructured.
Other texts show up much less frequently, and most users actually never see one of them. But sometimes it happens. For instance, all texts mentioned above like ‘Not Modified’ and ‘See Other’ are pretty frequent occurrences, despite codes from the 3XX group being really rare.
Two of the most frequent and seen by users cases of redirection sequence utilization are content permanent (response code 301) or temporary (302) relocation. It actually allows the client (browser) to seamlessly guide users and traffic to the new place without any issues. For webmasters, it removes the need in notifying users manually about such changes, so it’s really convenient for webmasters.
Basically, whenever the content is placed elsewhere instead of its initial location, it can cause issues for current users by conflicting with browser cache. And when the redirection sequence is properly set up, it will guide the browser wherever needed until its cache is reloaded with the reconfigured parameters and proper URL source location.
If the resource is highly dependent on SEO optimization, properly set up redirecting sequence really helps webmasters with resolving seo-related issues and guiding SERP parsers to where they can find the moved content. Basically, it helps maintain link equity and SEO rankings in case of relocation, maintenance or restructuring of the resource.
But it is vital to monitor the 302 found status code in cases when it’s used as a temporary solution. Those settings should be removed as soon as the content was returned to its initial location so that the search parsing service won’t look for it elsewhere instead of its true location.
Why Webmasters Use 3xx Redirection Codes
Preserving SEO Value
As it was already mentioned, webmasters are utilizing 3XX codes like status code 301 to make sure that parsers from the search engines are following the right source despite the change of its initial location. And when it’s only temporary, it maintains the current SEO status and SERP ranking position of the resource before it will be returned back to its first location. But when relocation or restructuring is not temporary, the usage of the status code 302 means more than that, because it serves for another purpose, taking into account the fact that the source is permanently moved.
First and foremost, 302 serves as the initial guide for the search robots that determine the web-resource ranking according to status, performance and other parameters. But when SERP parsers see 302 instead of 304 ok status code, they follow the redirection sequence and mark the new location as permanent. This initiates the move of the ranking value in SERP rankings from old URL to the new header, basically completing the relocations for SEO optimization.
Enhancing User Experience
From the webmaster’s standpoint, all redirecting sequences and texts accompanying them are meant to automate almost any changes in the source structure or location. Simply put, it’s used whenever something changes on the site - from switching to another server before it will return from maintenance and up to complete relocation of the resource elsewhere from the current server because of the hosting change.
It creates an almost seamless framework for users’ browsers to follow to the new place without issues until re-caching the data from the new source. And that’s why it’s almost never seen by users - redirection sequences must work without appearing except when there are performance issues with the software or hardware side.
Managing URL Changes
Another important case of utilizing redirecting sequences is using them for utter user convenience - to avoid creating broken links when relocating or issuing maintenance when using a backup server to keep the source operational during the time. Basically, users won’t even notice any changes until those will be initialized in the released version of the resource when the relocation or maintenance ends.
It’s a very practical tool to resolve a lot of issues like maintenance shutdowns that can become vital for e-shops and other platforms frequently used by users. Because by using redirection sequences, webmasters of the said platforms will be able to create a continuity of links for users without resorting to any additional means.
All things considered, 3XX group of HTTP status text messages with codes are an occurrence that’s rarely seen by users if there are any issues with visited resources, but at the same those are very useful tools for webmasters who want to keep the website in working order when relocating, maintaining or restructuring it.
This code group, when properly set up, will help with user experience maintenance and also with keeping SEO rankings of the resource on the same level where those were before initiating aforementioned procedures. And while users won’t even see those texts, SERP parsers surely will and take them into account, especially when the resource is permanently relocated elsewhere from the initial server.
What is a 304 status code?
This status text code means actually what it tells - nothing in the source was changed in any way, but there could be errors in recognition and user query should be reloaded and re-sent to the source.
What is a 302 status code?
This status text means that the search for the requested data ended successfully, but it was found elsewhere from the initial location and will be returned back after the temporary relocation period ends. It’s usually solved by reloading the page or resource.