If you’ve been in a meeting with a techy person in recent years, you might have heard the term ‘redirects’ being referenced. This is something that may have been brought up during conversations about technical SEO, or perhaps even PPC advertising.

The reason is that these mysterious redirects, or lack of, have the potential to cause your marketing campaign significant harm.

Sounds serious right? Well they kinda’ are.

Table of contents

What is a redirect?

A redirect is a magical way to transport users and search engines from one URL to another. These can actually be set up as permanent redirects or temporary redirects. Whilst users won’t be able to tell the difference between the two, they do have an impact on organic performance.

301 redirect (permanent redirect)

This informs search engines that the web page has been permanently moved to a new address. Redirects are not supposed to be changed or updated on a frequent basis and doing so could hinder organic performance.

Here are examples of when a permanent redirect may be necessary:

  1. When consolidating multiple pages to one single page.
  2. A business going through a brand refresh may choose to also update their domain. In this scenario, permanent redirects will help to ensure that the process of getting the new URLs to rank organically is as smooth as possible.
  3. Redirecting users from unsecure HTTP to secure HTTPS can be done using permanent redirects.

302 redirect (temporary redirect)

This type of redirect informs search engines that traffic will only be diverted from the primary URL, temporarily. In terms of SEO, this means that link equity will not get passed across. Rankings may also continue to exist in SERPs longer-term.

Here are examples of when a temporary redirect may be necessary:

  1. When a page is unexpectedly broken or going through maintenance, setting up a 302 redirect to a relevant page can minimise disruption to a user.
  2. When going through A/B testing of a web page, a 302 redirect may be set up to help monitor engagement when changing functionality or design.

Are redirects important for SEO?

Yes, redirects are important for SEO and the use of them can potentially make or break your organic performance.

In particular, 301 redirects are important for SEO as they pass link equity from the old address to the new address. These redirects also ensure the new page inherits the SEO benefits of the old one, which helps to prevent a decline in rankings after a URL change.

What is a redirect chain?

Simply put, a redirect chain is a series of successive redirects where each redirect points to another URL, leading to multiple hops before reaching the final destination page.

When a URL with link equity gets permanently redirected, it transfers the link equity across to the new URL. However, it does not transfer 100% of link equity. This means that every redirect the link equity gets passed through, the less there will be passed on to the final destination URL. This is one of the key reasons why redirect chains are detrimental to an SEO strategy.

Still unsure? Here is a breakdown:

If link equity gets passed from URL A > URL B > URL C before it gets to URL D, the value will have been diminished.

This means URL D will not have been passed the full amount of link equity which URL A initially benefited from.

As a result, URL D may find it harder to retain the rankings URL A once ranked for.

How do redirect chains occur?

Redirect chains often happen overtime and almost always by accident. As these are updated on a file, unless a review gets carried out before new redirects are set up, there is a possibility that the new redirects could be causing historic URLs to go through a redirect chain.

For example, if historically we decided as an agency to no longer offer a service, URL A may have been redirected to URL B. Overtime, a business decision may have been made to stop offering the service on URL B which then gets redirected to URL C.

Without realising, we have created a two-step redirect chain (A -> B -> C) and diluted the link equity being passed from URL A.

This is bad for SEO as link equity or ‘link juice’, represents the value or authority that a link transfers from one web page to another. This is one of many ranking factors, but is considered an important one.

Reasons why you should avoid redirect chains

1. Slows down page loading times

Each redirect forces the browser to fetch a new web page, adding extra steps and time to the loading process. This can lead to a poor user experience and increased bounce rates.

2. Reduces link equity or ‘link juice’

Search engines like Google distribute ranking authority (link juice) through backlinks. With each redirect, some link juice is lost, diminishing the SEO value of the original link. This can impact the ranking potential of the final destination URL in search engine results pages (SERPs).

3. Wasted crawl budget

Search engines such as Google only have a limited amount of resources to crawl your website. If Google is spending too much time accessing redirected pages, this will leave less budget to crawl more important pages such as the final destination URLs.

What is a redirect loop?

A redirect loop is like getting stuck on a roundabout with all exits blocked. You're sent round and round in circles never reaching your destination. Not only does this confuse search engines and harms SEO as they can't find your content, but it provides an extremely poor user experience.

How do redirect loops occur?

User error

Imagine you have multiple web pages: URL A and URL B. You set up a redirect on A to send visitors to B. But then, you mistakenly also set up a redirect on B to send visitors back to A. This creates a constant loop where users and search engines get stuck endlessly bouncing between the two pages.

Configuration issues

Redirects can be implemented in various ways, like through server settings or on a content management system (CMS). If these different systems have conflicting redirect rules for the same page, it can lead to a loop. For example, your server might redirect URL A to URL B, while your CMS has a rule redirecting URL B back to URL A.

Reasons why you should avoid redirect loops:

1. Negative user experience

Redirect loops create a frustrating experience for users as they are stuck in an endless loop of redirects, unable to reach the final destination URL. This leads to increased bounce rates, which although isn’t a confirmed ranking factor, can signal to search engines that the website may not be providing valuable or relevant content.

2. Crawlability issues

Search engine crawlers will struggle to navigate through redirect loops, causing them to either abandon the crawl or allocate fewer resources to indexing the website's content. This can result in incomplete indexing of important pages and lower search engine visibility.

Redirect chains vs redirect loops

Redirect chains - when visiting URL A, you are redirected to URL B then to URL C, before getting to URL D.

Redirect loops - When visiting URL A, you are redirected to URL B then to URL C, which gets redirected to URL A and subsequently puts you in an infinite loop.

Final thoughts

Getting a little complacent and adding new redirects to the file whenever you update a URL can have a big impact on your SEO performance. Whilst initially you may see no difference, over time there is a possibility that the loss of link equity to the current URLs will cause rankings to decline. This can then impact future organic rankings, traffic and conversions.

As link equity is a ranking factor, we strongly recommend scheduling periodic reviews. In these reviews, our advice would be to pay close attention at how the redirects for your old pages with backlinks are being handled. This is especially important during site structure changes or site migrations.

Speak to a professional

Have you noticed that your organic performance has dwindled over time? Then it may be worth considering speaking to an SEO professional. Here at Adido Digital, we have many years of experience analysing organic performance and auditing sites to understand why performance may be on the decline. Drop us a line today to find out how we can help.

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Meet the author ...

Jessica Sellers

SEO Manager

SEO is Jess’s passion. She has over six years of experience in digital marketing and has thoroughly enjoyed her journey in SEO so far. Working both in-house and agency side across a ...