I'm working with a hosting company. I need them to setup a 301 redirect for one of my pages. I really care about the ranking on the search engines for this particular page.

They claim that in order to do a 301 redirect, they will delete the page on their server which will trigger a 404 and they will respond with a 301 to the new address.

It is my understanding that you cannot do a 404 and a 301, but I'm just a programmer.

I'm not sure if they're using IIS. All I know is they specialize in ColdFusion hosting.


2 Answers 2


Each HTTP request generates one HTTP response from the server. Each HTTP response has only one status code.

There is a setting in IIS where you can specify to do a permanent 301 redirect. In that case no check is made to see if any files that used to be in the website exists. So no 404 is generated.

If the end user is getting a 404 then there is no redirect at all. Google and any other search engine will not preserve your page rank for each page on your site.

  • If the user gets 404 after redirect, it may mean that the page redirect points to doesn't exist... Oct 5, 2010 at 15:40
  • @Hubert: If a user gets a 301 redirect, then that user [or agent] sends a new request to get that 404 does not exist. So it's still 1 request 1 response. Oct 5, 2010 at 17:19
  • yes, that was what I wanted to say. While it is impossible to have both 301 and 404 with one request, it is possible to get 404 on a redirected file. Oct 5, 2010 at 17:22

This one kind of makes my brain hurt. I don't have the greatest knowledge on how Google handles things like this but logic would dictate this hosting company's method is a horrible, horrible idea.

It sounds like they want to set up the 301 redirect on the 404 page itself. So basically you go to your page and it returns a 404 since they deleted it, Page not Found, then that 404 page is 301 redirected to your new page. All this is going to do is tell Google that you have a new 404 page (which they don't care about), and that the page they were looking for, the one you want to maintain page rank for, no longer exists. The page rank would logically be destroyed.

In order to achieve the benefit you want from the 301, it has to be for the page in question, not the 404 page.

  • Error 404 isn't a page. An explanation page might be included with the 404.
    – Chris S
    Oct 5, 2010 at 16:47
  • I appreciate you trying to get technical, but I think it's fairly evident from my response that I know the difference between a 404 response and a 404 page. If you read the OP you'll see they want to incorporate both to create a convoluted 301.
    – Kyle Buser
    Oct 5, 2010 at 16:53
  • Although I guess I could have been a little clearer in my distinction between the 404 response and the 404 page, but I think it is ultimately irrelevant here.
    – Kyle Buser
    Oct 5, 2010 at 17:09
  • Kyle, Any advice on how to analyze the HTTP responses from one of the pages they're doing this pseudo-301 redirect on? I would like to see if they're doing a soft redirect to a 404-page before doing a 301 to the new page. Oct 5, 2010 at 19:15
  • It's going to be a little tricky if you don't have access to the web server. You could try writing a script to open a connection to the old page and read the response. I just set up a similar 301 to see if the IE9 Developer tools would see what happened, but no luck.
    – Kyle Buser
    Oct 5, 2010 at 19:49

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