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Are Redirects Bad for SEO? How They Impact Website Rankings

Julia McCoy
Tuesday, 21st May 2024
are redirects bad for seo

Imagine this: You’ve meticulously crafted content and optimized every detail, but still struggle with rankings. Could it be because of all those redirects?

Are redirects bad for SEO?

If you’ve ever wondered if those pesky URL redirects are sabotaging your website’s performance, you’re not alone.

Today we’ll uncover whether these digital detours are a hidden enemy or an unsung hero in search engine optimization.

Table Of Contents:

What Are Redirects and How Do They Work?

If you’ve ever clicked a link and found yourself on a different page than expected, you’ve likely experienced a redirect.

But what exactly are redirects and how do they work?

In simple terms, a redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally requested. It’s like a forwarding address for web pages.

Here’s an explanation from Google:

are redirects bad for SEO

Types of Redirects

There are several types of redirects, but the most common are 301 and 302 redirects.

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, telling search engines that the page has permanently moved to a new location. This type passes about 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page.

Meanwhile, a 302 redirect is a temporary redirect. It tells search engines that the move is only temporary and that they should keep the old page indexed. 302 redirects don’t pass link equity as effectively.

Each type of redirect has an HTTP status code. The 3xx class of status codes indicates a redirect.

Here are the most common:

  • 301 Moved Permanently
  • 302 Found (Moved Temporarily)
  • 307 Temporary Redirect
  • 308 Permanent Redirect

When implementing redirects, it’s crucial to use the right status code to tell search engines whether the redirect is permanent or temporary.

Client-Side vs Server-Side Redirects

Redirects can be implemented on either the client side or the server side.

Client-side redirects, like those done with JavaScript or meta refresh tags, are executed by the browser. Search engines may not properly follow these, so they’re not ideal for SEO.

Server-side redirects, like 301s and 302s, are a better choice. They’re executed by the server and reliably pass link equity. Plus, they provide a better user experience since they’re faster.

Are Redirects Bad for SEO?

It depends. While necessary in many cases, implementing redirects incorrectly can negatively impact your SEO. But when done right, they’re a valuable tool.

Let’s dive into the details.

How Search Engines Handle Redirects

When a user clicks a link to a redirected page, they’re immediately sent to the new URL.

But search engines handle redirects a bit differently.

First, the search engine bot reaches the original URL and sees the redirect. It then follows the redirect to the new URL, taking note of the status code.

If it’s a 301, the bot understands the page has permanently moved and updates its index accordingly. This process does take some time, though. Search engines need to crawl and process the redirect, which can temporarily impact rankings. But once processed, the new page usually regains any rankings and traffic from the old URL.

Negative Impact of Redirects on SEO

While redirects are necessary in many cases, there are potential drawbacks to using them:

  1. Slow page speed: Each redirect adds latency, slowing down page load times which can negatively impact SEO.
  2. Loss of link equity: While minimal, each redirect may mean a small loss in link equity passed.
  3. Redirect chains: If you have multiple redirects in a row (A → B → C), link equity is diluted and search engines may abandon the crawl.
  4. Wrong code: Using the wrong type of redirect (like a 302 instead of a 301) can prevent link equity from being passed.

Positive Impact of Redirects on SEO

Despite potential drawbacks, redirects are often beneficial and even necessary for SEO:

  • Migrating to a new domain: 301 redirects let you change domains without losing your SEO progress.
  • Consolidating content: Redirecting old, thin pages to newer, more comprehensive ones helps consolidate link equity.
  • Fixing broken links: Redirecting broken URLs to live pages provides a better user experience and prevents link equity loss.
  • Canonical URLs: Redirects can be used to specify a canonical (preferred) URL to prevent duplicate content issues.

So, are redirects bad for SEO?

Not entirely.

Like most things in SEO, it depends on how you implement them.

are redirects bad for SEO

Best Practices for Implementing Redirects

Now that you know redirects’ impact on SEO, let’s cover some best practices to minimize negative effects and leverage their benefits.

Choose the Right Type of Redirect

One of the most common mistakes in domain forwarding is using 302 redirects instead of 301s for permanent page moves. Remember, 301s are for keeps — they tell search engines that a page has moved for good. 302s, on the other hand, indicate a temporary move and can confuse search engines (and dilute link equity).

In most cases, 301 redirects are your best bet. They pass the most link equity and tell search engines the move is permanent. Only use 302s for truly temporary moves, like during site maintenance.

Avoid meta refresh and JavaScript redirects for SEO-critical pages as these types of redirects can be unreliable and may not pass link authority properly as search engines may not interpret them correctly.

Redirect to Relevant Pages

Don’t you just hate it when you click on a link only to be redirected to a totally irrelevant page?

Don’t be that website owner.

When setting up redirects, make sure you’re sending users (and search engines) to a page that closely matches the intent and content of the original URL.

Redirecting all your old blog posts to your homepage might seem like a quick fix, but it’s a surefire way to frustrate visitors and tank your SEO. Instead, take the time to map out relevant new URLs for each redirected page.

Avoid Redirect Chains and Loops

Redirect chains occur when there’s more than one redirect between the initial URL and the destination.

For example: URL A → URL B → URL C

Each “hop” slows down page speed and dilutes link equity.

To avoid this, always redirect to the final destination URL: URL A → URL C

Also watch out for redirect loops, where URL A redirects to URL B, which redirects back to URL A. This can happen with misconfigured redirect rules and can completely tank your SEO.

You can use a tool like httpstatus.io to check for loops.

are redirects bad for seo

Minimize the Number of Redirects

Here’s another important tip – keep your redirect chains as short as possible.

Every additional redirect between the original URL and the final destination will dilute the link equity a bit more.

Ideally, you want old URLs to redirect directly to their new homes with a single 301. No pit stops, no layovers, just a direct flight from A to B.

Regularly audit your site for redirect chains and update them to point straight to the final destination.

Monitor and Update Redirects

Okay, so you’ve set up your 301 redirects and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

But wait – what about all those internal links pointing to the old URLs? If you don’t update them to point directly to the new pages, you’re essentially creating unnecessary redirect chains (and diluting link equity in the process).

Redirects aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic. You need to regularly monitor them to ensure they’re working properly and update them as needed.

Tools like Screaming Frog can help you identify internal links to redirected pages at scale.

Look for chains, loops, and 404 errors that need fixing.

Make sure to audit your internal links and update them to reference the final destination URLs.

Also, avoid changing redirected URLs too frequently as search engines need time to process each change. It’s best to get redirects right the first time.

So, are redirects bad for SEO?

Not if you use them wisely.

By understanding how link equity works and implementing 301 redirects strategically, you can keep your SEO mojo flowing smoothly, even as your site evolves.

Key Takeaway: Redirects aren’t inherently bad for SEO. Use 301 redirects for permanent changes and avoid redirect chains to maintain link equity. Regularly monitor your redirects with tools like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console to catch issues early.

How to Properly Use Redirects to Preserve Link Equity

If you’ve been in the SEO game for a while, you know that redirects are a crucial part of any website migration or restructuring. But here’s the thing — not all redirects are created equal when it comes to preserving that sweet, sweet link equity (aka “link juice”).

First things first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what link equity is.

In a nutshell, it’s the SEO value or authority a page has accumulated through external links. The more high-quality links pointing to a page, the more link equity it has.

When you redirect a page with a ton of link equity to a new URL, you want to make sure as much of that equity as possible is passed along to the new page. That’s where 301 redirects come in.

301 redirects are the gold standard for passing link equity from an old URL to a new one. They tell search engines that a page has permanently moved and that the new URL should inherit its ranking signals.

Now, I know what you might be thinking – “But don’t 301 redirects lose some link equity in the process?”

Well, yes and no.

While it’s true that not 100% of the equity may be passed, a 301 is still the best way to redirect a page for SEO purposes.

Avoid using 302 temporary redirects, meta refresh redirects, or JavaScript redirects if your goal is to preserve link authority.

Tools and Resources for Managing Redirects

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of managing all your site’s redirects? Don’t worry, there are plenty of tools and resources out there to help make the process a bit less daunting.

Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites.

Redirect Plugins for Content Management Systems

If you’re running your site on a popular CMS like WordPress, you’re in luck as there are some fantastic redirect plugins available to help simplify the process.

One of my go-tos is Redirection, which makes it easy to create and manage redirects right from your WordPress dashboard.

redirection wordpress

Of course, it’s important not to go overboard with plugins – too many can slow down your site and create conflicts.

But a well-coded, regularly updated redirect plugin can be a lifesaver when it comes to managing redirects at scale.

Redirect Checker Tools

Want to keep tabs on your site’s redirects and identify potential issues before they become major problems?

A good redirect checker tool is a must-have in your SEO toolkit.

One of my favorites is the httpstatus.io redirect checker. Just enter a URL and it’ll show you the full redirect chain, highlight any broken links or loops, and even estimate the amount of link equity passed through each hop. It’s a great way to audit your redirects and spot opportunities for optimization.

Another powerful tool for auditing redirects (and a ton of other SEO issues) is Screaming Frog. While it’s a bit more advanced than some other redirect checkers, it’s an incredibly valuable tool for analyzing redirects at scale.

Finally, don’t forget about Google Search Console. The “Coverage” report can alert you to any redirect errors or issues that Google encounters while crawling your site.

The “Links” report is also useful for identifying which redirected pages have the most inbound links – a great way to prioritize your redirect optimization efforts.

By keeping a close eye on Google Search Console, you can catch redirect problems early and avoid potential SEO issues down the road.

FAQs: How Are Redirects Bad for SEO?

How many redirects are too many for SEO?

Avoid more than five consecutive redirects. Excessive chains confuse search engines and slow page load times.

What is the best redirect for SEO?

The 301 permanent redirect preserves link equity, making it ideal when a URL changes permanently.

Are URL redirects bad?

No, but use them wisely. Poorly implemented redirects can hurt your site’s performance and rankings.

Does redirecting domains help SEO?

If done correctly with 301 redirects, domain forwarding consolidates authority and maintains search engine rankings.

Conclusion

Are redirects bad for SEO?

The answer isn’t always black and white.

Redirects can hurt or help depending on how you use them.

If done right, like using 301s for permanent moves, they preserve link equity and user experience. But missteps like creating chains or loops can cost you traffic and rankings.

When necessary, redirects work seamlessly rather than hinder progress.

Your path to better ranking might just involve fixing some old detours!

Written by Julia McCoy

See more from Julia McCoy
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