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I'm having trouble finding a clear answer on this. I'm optimizing someone else's website, and a tool pointed out that the index page returns a "302 found" (it redirects to a long URL with cookie info).

Is this bad for the index page SEO to have a 302 redirect?

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It also sounds bad that cookie info is in the URL itself. It would indicate that every URL is different. Your making it very hard for a Search Engine to find the content and associate it with a valid URL for indexing.

A secondary issue is every visitor will have a different URL. If they decide to link to you or use social media then every user will be linking to a different page and therefore non of the pages will become popular.

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Thank you, Tiggerito! Yeah, I'm not sure what they are trying to do with the cookie in the URL - and it only happens on the index page. I'm going to recommend that they fix whatever is doing that in their code. Great point about user-generated inbound links, too. I think the client will understand the importance of that :) –  Cuemotive Mar 22 '11 at 20:42
    
Did you get it sorted? Quite a few older CMS systems will use the URL parameters to track sessions instead of cookies. This may be your issue. In even worse cases this only happens to the robots (they don't support cookies), so behind the scenes your CMS is creating mass confusion for the search engines. –  Tiggerito Nov 3 '11 at 15:44
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Yes, it is bad for SEO when the index page has a 302 redirect.

Matt Cutts discusses this scenario in an old blog post from 2006: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-discussing-302-redirects/

for on-domain 302 redirects (that is, a redirect in which both the source page and the destination page are both on the same domain), search engines will usually pick the shorter url.

It's better for SEO when the search engines don't have to make those choices.

Incredibly, his off-domain redirect example for sfgiants.com still has the same sub-optimal behaviour today.

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Thank you, Ciaran! I had come across that Matt Cutts post, but his explanation wasn't very clear to me. Your answer is clear :) –  Cuemotive Mar 22 '11 at 20:34
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