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We have a site https://example.org/forecast/ that at the time of writing redirects to a "time-stamped" (/forecast/month-year/) URL, like so: https://example.org/forecast/june-2022/. Say, in December, we will have a https://example.org/forecast/december-2022/ edition, etc. We may have three or four editions every year. In a nutshell, the "bare" URL should always redirect to the current edition. Technically, this is easy.

However, from an SEO as well as a "proper use of standards" point of view, my case appears not that easy. For me, this use case does fit neither a 301 (Permanent) nor a 302 (Temporary) redirect.

301 will cache indefinitely, which will not work for us, while 302 appears to be recommended for site migrations and other technical reasons.

Based on some old discussion of this from 2006 it appears that 302 would be the way to go, but 16 years later is that still the consensus?

Added in November 2022: We just used a 301 Permanent Redirect and then found that users' links led them to the outdated page as their browsers had still cached the original target URL. So, we will try with a 302 Temporary Redirect instead, although there's still the question about Google juice flowing or not ...

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  • I would go for 302. Or put a summary in the forecast page and let the user press a button or click a link to go to the particular one. Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 0:15
  • Do you want the bare url example.org/forecast to be found in search engines or is that just an internal page? Do you want the old forecast pages to be found and archived in search engines? What if any of these pages should appear in search? Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 1:42
  • Would putting up a example.org/forecast/december-2022 with a canonical tag. and then delivering that content with the canonical tag from forecast/index.php include('./december-2022/index.html'); not be viable? Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 1:57
  • @Wayne thanks for these questions. At this point example.org/forecast is not a page in itself, it's just a forward to the dated page. We may want to make the /forecast page a list of the dated editions. And yes, we'd like to have the bare page to pop up in a search. You also mentioned a canonical meta tag, where would it point to, the bare url?
    – jfix
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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Per comments, you would also like https://example.com/forecast/ to be indexed.

You are correct about your assessment that neither a 301 or a 302 fits your use case. Although the 302 resolves the issue of caching, and is a little closer to your use case.

Luis is correct, the 301 is the redirect that passes the value of the link through to the next page a 302 does not. But this passing of the value of the link is based on the search engine checking the 301 several times over several different time periods. They are checking that the 301 remains pointing to the same page, and if not undoing the link effect. So if the 301 is changing there is not going to be the effect as if that page existed with links to all the forecast pages.

Passing the value of the link and user expectations

The value of the link may be limited if you already have links pointing towards the achieve of forecasts. The algo is not a raw count of links where value = links * factor. In other words the link from the HTTP://example.com/forecast to HTTP://example.com/forecast/december-2022 may not have that much effect, assuming /december-2022 is in the sitemap.xml, has other links on the site pointing towards it.

As a general theme for the forecasts, a basic silo structure where the link can be found in a drop-down or sidebar to on December 2022 to other forecasts and other forecasts have the same drop-down or sidebar linking back to december-2022. with a breadcrumb to the main page of forecast ... helps in building the idea that these forecast pages are almost a site in them selves and should be ranked accordingly.

The term silo was coined for structurally building what could stand alone as a site and as far as links are concerned it resembles a site like sites.google.com/forecast but is incorporated into a larger site ... like sites.google.com/forecast. But of course, it links to the main site sharing search engine importance to the main site.

Right now the sub-site or silo has no home page, which is kind of distressing, and addressing that may greatly help your efforts.

If the redirects are not the right tool then what can you do?

To get the effect / results I think you are describing. Build the forecast page ... If the forecast page is nothing more than the current forecast, (which is how your site is currently redirecting traffic), then the canonical tag can be used to specify that the december-2022 should be considered the origin and the forecast page is a copy. The canonical tag is the tool that resolves duplicate content, and you have a use case.

With content on the forecast page it can be indexed and if breadcrumbs are used, and other areas on the site pointing to the forecast page it becomes the home page of the forecast silo, (sub-site), and should rank.

It would be better if the forecast page had unique content and did not have the canonical tag; Although the canonical tag does not decide which page will be listed and the forecast page has the greatest apparent importance. But as it changes the archives are the originals that should be indexed. And well its one line of code to implement in PHP to duplicate the content.

<?PHP 
// this code duplicates the ./december-2022/index.html onto this page.
// this is a trusted page on our site, if you can not trust yourself then ...
// as a trusted page there are no security concerns.

include('./december-2022/index.html');

// This code has more comments than code.
?>

The canonical tag would be on the december-2022/index.html page.

december-2022/index.htm or index.php

A index.php could include the sidebar or archive dropdown as a trusted include ... although an index.html could fetch the sidebar or archive ... the better choice depends on how large the forecast page is as either the index.html and or sidebar.html could be cached ... the best is what is fastest for the end user?

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I would strongly suggest that you use 301 redirects. The link juice will flow down the redirect chain, as Google says in its docs:

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/301-redirects

One thing to note is not to exceed five hops in the redirect chain, as John Mueller suggests:

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/googles-john-mueller-recommends-less-than-5-hops-per-redirect-chain/

So in practice, every month, I would update every redirect older than six months (which, in theory, should already be obsolete) and edit the old 301s to the latest target.

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    301 are for permanent redirects, however, I know that my redirects are temporary, like every quarter they change. Thanks for the info on max hops though.
    – jfix
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 12:50

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