Can You Remove a Redirect? And The SEO Impact
- 1 Potential Issues With Removing a Redirect
- 2 When Should You Remove a Redirect?
- 3 How to Reverse a Redirect
- 4 Resubmitting Pages to Google Search Console
- 5 How to Help Google Forget a 301 Redirect
- 6 Final Thoughts on Reversing a Redirect
A 301 redirect is permanent in the sense that you use it when you want to permanently redirect one URL to another. In contrast, a 302 redirect is used when you know you’ll be using the original URL again in the future.
Search engines also think that 301 redirects are permanent. As Maker’s Aid puts it, “For Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and any other crawler visiting your website, a 301 redirect means that the domain name, web page, or file in question will never be available again at its original URL.”
However, the actual setup of a 301 redirect isn’t permanent, meaning you can undo it (in other words, reverse it) if you want to.
Unfortunately, the answer to, “Can you remove a redirect?” still isn’t a straightforward “yes.” Since you set up the 301 redirect with the intention of it being permanent, reversing it and the issues that can result are more involved. Let’s get into it.
Potential Issues With Removing a Redirect
There are a handful of concerns raised when reversing redirects. That doesn’t mean you should never remove a redirect, but knowing the implications helps you make wise decisions for your website. Here are a few known problems with removing redirects:
Reversing 301 Redirects May Take Some Time to Process
In the interim, your website may experience performance delays, which can negatively impact your ranking. The slump should pass, unless the reversal is more problematic than you anticipated.
You May Have to Split Link Authority
In some cases, like when you reverse a 301 redirect but keep both pages active, you’ll have to share the link authority that URL B built.
Creating redirects causes indexing confusion. Eventually, web crawlers will sort out those signals…in theory. The more 301 redirects you make, the more complex your site’s navigation. Reversing several 301 redirects exacerbates that.
It’s Tempting To Create Redirect Loops
The easiest solution to an unwanted redirect seems to be adding another redirect so that URL B goes back to URL A. However, this creates redirect loops, which diminish the link juice that gets passed along and slow page load time.
When Should You Remove a Redirect?
According to Google’s Gary Illyes via Twitter, redirects should stay put for at least one year before changing them, and it’s best if they can stay up indefinitely. After 12 months, the signals are permanent as far as search engines are concerned.
If you reverse a redirect after these permanent signals have been established, search engines have to start the process of following and establishing those navigation signals again.
That said, there are certain scenarios in which it makes sense to reverse a 301 redirect. For example:
- You want to remove the destination page and have traffic go to the original URL again.
- You want both URLs to continue existing, but there’s no need to direct traffic from URL A to URL B any longer.
- You made a site-wide or domain-level change that you’re not happy with and you want to redo it.
The point is to make sure you’re reversing the redirect for valid reasons. Otherwise, it poses too much of a ranking risk to make it worth it.
Even within the examples above, some situations are more rational than others. We’ll get into that when we walk you through each one.
When Not To Remove a Redirect
If you’ve set up a 301 redirect and it’s taking a long time to work smoothly (for example, there’s a delay between URL A and URL B), don’t try to reverse it because you’re worried about the performance impact. Reversing a 301 redirect while it’s still being processed can cause even more delays, and your short-term loss in ranking can become more severe.
How to Reverse a Redirect
In this section, we’ll walk you through how to reverse a 301 redirect, starting with the easiest scenario and building up to the most taxing.
Note that for the sake of clarity, we’re using the terminology “URL” (URL A, URL B, etc.) when speaking interchangeably about URLs and pages.
Reverse a Single Page Redirect and Remove the Second Page
The Problem: You have a redirect that goes from URL A > URL B and you no longer want to send people to URL B or have any visitors land on URL B.
- Remove the 301 redirect so that URL A no longer goes to URL B.
- Set up a 301 redirect from URL B > URL A.
- Update internal links so they point to URL A.
- Submit both URLs to Google Search Console.
What you don’t want to do is remove URL B from your XML sitemap. If web crawlers can’t find URL B, then it can’t process the new navigation setup. Follow the above steps, then leave URL B alone so that Google can do its thing.
P.S. Did you know that Link Whisper can help you audit and update your internal links?
Reverse a Single Page Redirect and Keep Both Pages
The Problem: You don’t want to direct visitors from URL A to URL B anymore, but you do want to keep URL B active.
Solution 1: Do this when you want URL B available to search engines:
- Remove the 301 redirect that goes from URL A > URL B.
- Add self-referential canonical tags.
- Submit URL A and URL B to GSC.
You can also help Google properly index both pages by adding internal and external links to them.
Why Should You Add Self-Referencing Canonical Tags?
Canonical tags are used to tell search engines which page to prioritize when two or more pages are similar.
For example, you publish a blog post on Monday. You post that same article to Medium on Friday so that your Medium audience can find it. However, you don’t want Google to rank the Medium article in search results; you only want your website’s blog post ranked. You add a canonical link (the link of your website’s blog post) to the Medium article’s settings. That tells search engines, “Don’t rank this article, rank that other one instead.”
Normally, a page will point to itself, so you don’t usually have to add a self-referencing canonical link to the same page. But when you’re reversing 301 redirects, web crawlers can get confused. Adding a self-referential canonical link will make it clear to the search engine which URL to index.
How to Add a Canonical Link in WordPress
The easiest way to add canonical tags is with your SEO plugin, like Rank Math or Yoast. Simply copy the URL of the live page and then paste it in the dedicated section. In Rank Math, the section for adding a canonical tag is under the Advanced tab:
Alternatively, you can add the code manually, but this is an advanced technique that should be handled by a developer.
Solution 2: Do this when you want URL B hidden from search engines:
There are some pages that are important for visitors to access but don’t need to be indexed by search engines, like a sales confirmation page.
- Remove the 301 redirect from URL A > URL B.
- Add a canonical link to URL B that points to URL A.
- Update internal links to point to URL A.
- Submit URL A and URL B to GSC.
Reverse a Site-Wide or Domain Redirect
The Problem: You made a URL change across the entire website, like updating the structure of your sub-folders, and now you’ve changed your mind. Or, maybe you moved your website to an entirely new domain, but now you want to use your old domain again (and you still have access to it).
Proceed with caution! This is a major redirect reversal project. Be prepared for search engines to take ample time to get indexing right once again.
Note that we’re simplifying URLs here to URL A and URL B. Assume that means A-type and B-type URLs. The original URLs are A-type, and the destination URLs that you’re reversing are B-type.
- Remove all URL A > URL B redirects.
- Add site-wide redirects that go from URL B > URL A.
- Add self-referential canonicals to all pages.
- Update internal links to point to the correct URLs.
- For Domain Redirects Only: Add the original domain to GSC in a separate profile, preferably using the old one you used to use.
- Rebuild your XML sitemap with the correct URLs.
- Submit the most critical pages to GSC.
- Update important inbound links to point to URL A.
A few notes on some of the steps above:
Submit the most critical pages to GSC: GSC limits the number of pages you can submit. The best strategy is to first submit pages with high authority and those that are prioritized in the internal link structure. Eventually, Google should crawl pages of lower importance, too.
Update important inbound links to point to URL A: You won’t be able to get every external link updated, but it’s smart to contact website owners who you have a good relationship with, especially if they run high-quality sites. Nicely request that they update the outbound link for you.
Resubmitting Pages to Google Search Console
Resubmitting your pages to GSC will make it easier for them to be indexed. Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Inspect the URL
Go to Google Search Console. At the top, there’s a search bar that says Inspect any URL in [your domain].
You’ll need to inspect a URL before you’re able to resubmit it. Enter the URL, then hit Enter on your keyboard.
Step 2: Request that Google Re-index the URL
After a few seconds, you’ll see a status page that looks similar to the one below. Click Request Indexing.
That’s it! You’ll probably see a message like the following:
The only thing left to do is wait, because it’ll take time for Google to re-index the URL.
How to Help Google Forget a 301 Redirect
According to Softkube, when reversing a redirect, it’s helpful to clear the cache from Google Chrome. Here’s how:
Open a new tab in Chrome, then open the developer tools by right-clicking and selecting Inspect.
Click the Double Arrow icon, then select Network from the drop-down menu.
Click the Disable Cache box.
On the same page, go to the link that you don’t want indexed (URL B). This should clear the redirect from the Chrome cache.
Un–check the Disable Cache box and close the developer tools by clicking the X in the top-right corner.
Final Thoughts on Reversing a Redirect
When creating or reversing 301 redirects, plan ahead and document your changes. Rushing through removing redirects can make it even harder for search engines to figure out what’s going on.
Also, make sure that you don’t have other issues that will get in the way of your website’s SEO. For example, redirect chains can make it even more difficult for search engines to index your site, which will only compound your problem.
Think everything through before you take action, then go slow and be methodical about any changes you make.
Need more help with redirect issues? Check out our article about how redirects impact SEO.