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I'm setting up geo-redirects for my site and am unsure which redirect type to use. I've read many articles on this subject, but still do not have a clear answer.

Here's the plan:

  1. Visitor lands on our homepage: https://example.com
  2. System recognizes user's IP location
  3. 301 or 302 redirect? <--- not sure which one
  4. User lands on the correct page (/en-us in USA, /en-ca in Canada, /en-au in Australia, etc.)

Step 3 is where I'm confused. I know I need to redirect them, but is a 301 redirect or 302 redirect better in this case?

I'd like to rank each of these pages in their specific countries / cities. To provide some more context, check out http://specialized.com. If you search for "Specialized bikes" in Google, specialized.com ranks as number one. If you land on it you are automatically redirected to the appropriate location. However, if you search for "specialized bikes australia" then specialized.com/au/en-au/ is the page that ranks... no redirection needed. This is the same setup I'm looking for.

  • Geo IP based redirects are bad for SEO. Googlebot doesn't crawl them correctly. Googlebot doesn't crawl from different global locations looking for different results. Which ever redirect Googlebot finds, that will be the one that it uses. That is probably why the bike site you link to behaves like it does. Googlebot crawled from the US and found the .com redirect, but it had to find the international sites through some other mechanism. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 13 '16 at 20:34
  • Aside: specialized.com appear to have a problem with their SSL cert - changed link to HTTP. – MrWhite Dec 14 '16 at 0:18
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As Stephen points out in comments, geo-IP redirects are generally bad for SEO (it prohibits the site from being crawled naturally and can at times hinder users through being redirected incorrectly). However, specialized bikes would appear to get around the SEO issues with sitemaps containing the different language versions (hreflang). (And only redirecting when no locale is included in the URL.)

301 or 302 redirect?

The referenced site would appear to use a 301 (permanent) redirect. 301s are cached hard by the browser. Once redirected; always redirected (from cache). This can result in marginally less traffic from repeat visitors.

However, I would tend to go for a 302 (temporary) redirect - which is not cached - for the following reasons:

  • A 301 is a one-way trip. If you needed to change your geo-ip-redirect-logic then it's a struggle. Users who have already visited your site might still get redirected the old way.

  • Users are not necessarily stationary. Mobile/tablet/laptop users can travel between regions, but a 301 redirect can tie them to the first region in which they visited the site.
    A geo-IP redirect is not necessarily permanent.

A 302 would not suffer these "problems" (albeit "edge cases").

  • Your answer gives valuable insight that can only come from an expert. Fantastic! I would have only considered a 301 out of hand. Now I would not. Cheers!! – closetnoc Dec 14 '16 at 2:22
  • Really appreciate this answer. I've been using 302 redirects like you mentioned, but didn't have a real reason for doing so. This makes a lot of sense. Thank you. – Brian Kidwell Dec 17 '16 at 23:44

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