A redirect is a hop which a URL takes when a browser asks the server for a certain URL. In simpler terms, it hops from the URL a user asks the alternative destination URL the webmaster wants to serve.
Although Google has confirmed that 301 and 302 redirects don’t lose PageRank anymore there are many issues which redirect and redirect chains cause at the level of user experience, other link metrics and crawl efficiency. A badly executed redirect can lead to faulty redirect loops and chains.
There are 2 fundamental issues with redirect chains which affect both users and search engines.
- Slow load time – When your URLs go on an endless chain of redirects you slow down the speed of the site. With every hop, the browser sends a request to the server leading to loss of time in latency. This slow down of the site leads might lead to loss of user experience which shows up as loss of revenue
- Lack of crawl efficiency – Redirect chains set search engine crawlers chasing for URLs which actually deliver content. This leads to depleting crawl budget without offering any valuable content to search engines. The time spent on crawling other important pages will be spent on chasing destination pages hidden under a stack of redirect chains.
Redirect chains show up in 2 ways
Sitewide redirect chain – This redirect chain occurs when multiple redirection rules are applied across the whole site. This typically occurs when you are doing sitewide subdomain redirects and HTTPs migrations. Or both together. For instance, you might have moved your URLs from non-www to www URLs and followed it up with HTTP to HTTPs redirect. This can lead to redirecting chain as below across your entire domain.
To check if you have such redirect chains you can use this free tool by Varvy. This redirect mapper displays redirects from www and non-www versions of a URL using both HTTP and HTTPS protocols. Following is an example of how a right HTTPs migration URL redirects appear.
Single URL redirect chains
Single Redirect chains happen more at the level of a single URL. Wherein a single URL hops from one URL to another URL until it reaches a destination URL.
Ideally, we want a URL to reach its destination URL within a single redirect. To do so first we have to find the list of URLs which undergo a redirect chain. Once we find them we have to redirect these URLs to its destination URL in a single step.
How to find redirect chains within your site?
Step 1: Run a complete crawl of your website using ScreamingFrog Tool.
Step 2: Click “Redirect Chains” section under reports section and export the file.
Step 1: Run a complete crawl of your website using DeepCrawl
Step 2: Open the crawl dashboard and visit Redirect Chains under Config > Redirects. You will find a list of all URLs which go through multiple hops before reaching a destination URL.
How to use a single step redirect?
Once you have a list of URLs which undergo chained redirects you need to remove all redirect rules which stand in the way between the destination URL and the origin URL.
For instance, your current redirect rule might appear this way in apache server –
Redirect 301 /origin-url.html http://www.example.com/step-1-URL.html
Redirect 301 /step-1-URL.html http://www.example.com/step-2-URL.html
Redirect 301 /step-2-URL.html http://www.example.com/step-3-URL.html
Redirect 301 /step-3-URL.html http://www.example.com/destination-URL.html
You will want to remove those list of redirect chain rules and replace them with a single line URL rule which is
Redirect 301 /origin-url.html http://www.example.com/destination-URL.html
Once done run the list or chained redirect URL through HTTPStatus.io tool and check if redirect got implemented right. You can see here which of the redirects are still chained and which of them are single step redirects.
Canonical tags that point to 301
A rather hidden and less talked about issue when it comes to chained redirects is when canonical tags point to URLs which are redirected URLs. Although the user is unaffected the search engine crawler goes through multiple hops before reaching the destination URL.
You can find all such cases using DeepCrawl.
Step 1: Open “Canonical to Non 200” under Config > Canonical section.
Step 2: Use the filter “Target Status Code Less than 400”
Step 3: You will find a list of all pages which have their canonical tags pointed to a 3XX redirect page.
Ideally, a canonical tag should point to a destination URL and not the URL which redirects. To fix such issues simply replace all canonical URLs on these pages with links pointing to the destination URL.