Are redirects bad for SEO?

Scaled On Learning and Education CenterSEO

301 Redirect

To answer shortly: Yes, redirects are bad for SEO in certain situations. Don’t get us wrong, redirects are necessary sometimes and can help your rankings. It’s the only way to transfer users (or traffic) from deleted pages to new and updated pages.

But if you want to learn how do redirects affect SEO, please read further.


How to find problems related to redirects?

For discovering all the problems created by redirects, you must use an SEO spider (like Screaming Frog, Deepcrawl, Ahrefs etc) which will crawl all the pages of your website.

After the crawling is done, you can discover an entire list of errors due to redirects. We’ll describe the most common ones which you can meet in technical SEO reports or audits.

301 redirect

Yes, you may wonder: “Are 301 redirects bad for SEO as well? We thought this type of redirect is ok”. Well, the problem is not that a 301 redirect was created, but that the page which was redirected still receives links (internally, from previous redirects or from other websites).

So instead of reaching directly to the destination page when clicking on a link, both users and search engines crawlers will have to go through a redirect first. This will make the pages loading speed slower (which is bad for user experience), will consume more bandwidth, and will waste link equity and crawl budget.

302 Redirect

Everything we described before for 301 redirects, applies here as well. But there is an extra problem. 302 redirects are temporary by definition, so they will not pass authority and trust as 301 redirects do. This means that pages won’t inherit the rankings of the previous ones.

HTTP to HTTPS redirect

You may ask yourself again: “Why is bad to redirect an unsecured page to a secured one?” The problem is not that unsecured pages have been redirected to secured pages. This is, actually, a very good thing because HTTPS is one of the ranking signals for Google. But for this particular reason, crawlers show this error: Google will see too HTTP pages because they are still receiving links (internally or externally).

HTTPS to HTTP redirect

As we mentioned above, HTTPS is one of the ranking signals for Google. Therefore we strongly advise against redirecting HTTPS (secure) URLs to HTTP (not secure) ones.

Canonical points to redirect

These are website pages that have a canonical link pointing to a redirecting URL.

Sometimes you can have similar content or products under multiple URLs. This leads to duplicate content which can harm your website (its rankings).

Therefore, similar or duplicate pages must have a “canonical” tag in which you specify which is the most authoritative version you want search engines to show in search results.

But a redirecting URL specified as canonical can be misinterpreted by the search engines. As a result, a wrong (non-canonical) page version can be indexed.

Redirect chain

A redirect chain is a series of at least 2 redirects between the initial URL and the destination URL (so from page A->B->C and so on).


Redirect Chain Example
Redirect chains are very important to be fixed because they lead to the same problems mentioned for 301 redirects (slower page loading speed, damage user experience, waste crawl budget, and link equity), but multiplied by the number of redirects contained in a chain.

An even bigger problem is when the redirect chains are created from 302 redirects (which, again, are meant only for pages moved temporarily), or when a redirect chain is a mix between secured (HTTPS) and unsecured (HTTP) pages.

Redirect loop

A redirect loop can happen in 2 situations.

One is when a URL redirects to itself (page A->page A->…)

The other one is when a redirect chain redirects to one of the URLs within the chain (example page A->B->C->A->…).


Redirect Loop Example
Redirect loops are a trap for search engines crawlers. They will also lead to a “Too Many Redirects” error in the browser.

Page has links to redirect

These are the pages that have links to redirecting URLs.

A single page can have dozens or even hundreds of links to redirects. This consumes much more bandwidth and crawl budget than necessary (so search engines will take longer to discover and index more of the unique and fresh content). Also, this could lower your rankings because it wastes link equity (10%-15% for every redirect) and influences User Experience (visitors may “bounce” because pages loading time are higher).

External 3XX redirect

It means that you link to other websites, but these links step through different types of redirects (301, 302 etc). You should be very careful because these might lead to totally different pages (or websites) than the original ones. This can be confusing for both users and search engines crawlers. Thus you should review all external redirects to make sure you don’t link to irrelevant or spammy content.

HTTPS page has internal links to HTTP

You have HTTPS pages that link to HTTP pages. It usually happens when you switch the entire site to HTTPS, but still, have internal links to the old and unsecured HTTP version.

Another scenario that can lead to internal links to HTTP is when you create redirects in .htaccess, but you use relative URLs for the end page of the redirect, instead of absolute URLs.

It’s important to fix these errors because, as we already mentioned, HTTPS is one of the ranking signals for Google. It could mean also that you have internal links that step through redirects (which we have described before).

Image, CSS and Javascript redirects

Just like links, different resources (like images, CSS and Javascript files) can be redirected. Redirected resources increase page loading times too because web browsers need to make additional HTTP requests before reaching the destination URLs.

Page has redirected image, CSS and Javascript

These are the pages where SEO spiders have discovered redirected resources.

3XX page receives organic traffic

Redirected pages still appear in SERP. This can occur when you redirect a page, but search engines didn’t crawl it yet. In search results, users must find the current live pages, not the old ones which have been redirected.

3XX redirect in the sitemap

The sitemap contains pages that have been redirected. It’s a problem because the sitemap gives search engines a hint about which are the most important pages you want to be crawled and indexed. Thus including pages which no longer exist gives mixed signals to search engines and, as a result, they may choose to ignore the sitemap.

Conclusions

As you can see, redirects do affect SEO and fixing problems they create is an ongoing process. Pages are deleted all the time and are replaced with new ones. But redirects will not hurt your SEO anymore if you take care of all aspects described in this article.



Recommended for you

Do you want the latest resources delivered directly to your inbox?