Do Redirects Hurt SEO?

Redirects are a very common SEO practice that can help both search engines and website visitors out. 

Is there a scenario where they can be harmful to your rankings though? What happens if you have too many redirects on your website? Or if you haven’t chosen the right type of redirect? Or the page you have redirected a page to now redirects somewhere else? 

Let’s explore how redirects impact SEO and how you can get them right. 

What Are Redirects?

Redirects forward search engines and visitors from one URL to another. There are 5 types of redirects you can use on your website. 

Visitors will simply be taken to the new destination page, while search engines will also be told if the redirect is temporary or permanent and will treat it accordingly. 

How Do Redirects Impact SEO

When redirects are implemented correctly, they are good for SEO and user experience. 

If they are, however, implemented incorrectly, they will do the exact opposite and can result in lost search engine crawlers, dissatisfied visitors, and non-indexed pages. They can also harm your rankings by impacting several important ranking factors.  

Here’s what you need to know about redirects’ impact on SEO

Incorrect Redirects Can Cause Harm

Redirects can only harm your SEO when they are implemented incorrectly. 

For example, if you redirect a live page to a missing page, both search engines and website visitors will hit a wall. The same applies if you type in the destination URL incorrectly. 

Similarly, redirects can be harmful when you choose the wrong destination page. You always want to ensure the redirect is logical to both search engines and humans. If they are expecting to see a page about shoes but are instead taken to a page about shirts, neither of them will be satisfied. 

Redirect Chains Are Bad Too  

Another thing you want to avoid are long redirect chains. A redirect chain is when there are multiple redirects between the requested URL and its final destination. 

Google themselves have said that they will follow up to 10 redirect hops. This should make shorter chains okay; however, they will still slow your website down and waste your crawl budget. 

screenshot from Google on redirects

A lot of SEO tools, Ahrefs included, will also show redirect chains as errors or notices and will advise removing them. 

The best practice here is simple: when redirecting a page, always redirect it directly to its final destination. Periodically scan your website to check the state of your redirects and eliminate any chains you may have inadvertently created. 

Redirect Loops Are Even Worse 

Similarly to redirect chains, redirect loops can be harmful to SEO. Redirect loops are infinite loops of redirects. They are caused when a page is redirected to itself or when one URL in a redirect chain redirects back to a URL earlier in the same chain. 

Visitors will be shown a “too many redirects” error in their browser and never actually get access to the page they want to see. This is not good for user experience. 

Search engine crawlers will, on the other hand, keep running around in circles, wasting your crawl budget and getting frustrated. Having too many loops can harm your rankings, as search engines might decide your website is not regularly maintained and thus decide to show it less often.

Redirects Can Slow Your Website Down 

Both redirect chains and redirect loops can thus slow your website down. Since page speed is considered a ranking factor, you can suffer a significant hit if you don’t properly and efficiently redirect all of your pages. 

Slow websites are also highly frustrating to visitors, so even if search engines tolerate your chains, they may increase your bounce rates, especially among more impatient visitors. 

But Correct Redirects Are Not Bad For SEO 

Having said all that, we do have to point out that redirects are not bad for SEO, provided that they tick a couple of boxes:

  • They have been implemented correctly
  • The correct type of redirect has been chosen 
  • The appropriate destination page has been chosen
  • There are no loops and chains involved

In fact, Google will appreciate you lending it a hand and directing traffic where you want it to go. Don’t shy away from redirecting pages, whether to consolidate your content or to merge several websites. 

Are Too Many Redirects Bad For SEO? 

The short answer is no, too many redirects are not bad for SEO, and there is in fact no such thing as too many redirects. 

However, having too many “bad” redirects, ones that don’t check all the boxes we’ve listed above will be harmful for SEO. They will waste your crawl budget, they will slow your website down, and they will prevent both visitors and crawlers from finding what they are looking for. Some of your pages might not get indexed, and you might be labeled as a poor resource that does not deserve to rank highly in search engine results. 

Your best bet is to stay on top of your redirects on a regular basis. Use Link Whisper to look for 404 pages and pinpoint any broken links. You can also use it to change links that have since been redirected. 

How To Correctly Use Redirects

Now that you know why it’s important to ensure all redirects are implemented correctly, here’s what you should bear in mind when creating them. 

Choose Them Carefully 

Your first order of business is to choose the destination URL of the redirect carefully. Always try to find a page that matches the content and search intent of the original page as closely as possible. 

Try not to redirect pages to your homepage, as this will be considered a soft 404 by Google.

Redirect 404 Missing Pages

Redirect any missing 404 pages on your website only when it makes sense. If a page is really missing and is not coming back, and there is no appropriate alternative for it, keep it a 404 instead of redirecting it to a poorly chosen page. 

Be Careful With 302s

302 redirects are, as opposed to 301 redirects, only temporary. From an SEO perspective, this means search engines won’t treat the new URL as canonical, since the redirect is temporary. 

In practice, this means 302 redirects may not pass along all link equity, or link juice, as they are seen as placeholders. It also prevents the target page from being indexed, as the search engine is expecting a permanent redirect to be set up at some point in the future. 

Only use 302s for either testing purposes, or when you are temporarily diverting traffic until you create the final home for a removed page. 

Don’t Forget the HTTP to HTTPS 

Using HTTPS should no longer be an option. It’s mandatory both for security purposes, and in order to tick a very obvious and very simple Google ranking factor. 

You just need to remember to check that all of your HTTP pages have been correctly redirected to their HTTPS versions. You can use an SEO tool or an SEO spider to ensure that you have done this correctly. 

Manage Your Redirects With Ease 

While redirects sound like a complicated bit of SEO work, they are actually fairly simple to set up. As long as you follow the guidelines we’ve outlined above, you should see no negative effects, no matter how many of your pages are 301s. 

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