You have a website? Then you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization (SEO), the process of making your site easier for search engines to find, crawl, and rank for. The better your SEO, the higher your website will be in search engine ranking pages (SERP); As a result, the greater the chance that potential customers will notice your site. And with 68% of all website traffic coming from organic and paid searches, rather than through actions on social media and other marketing channels, the correct SEO strategy is essential.
Many SEO techniques are straightforward – don’t use keywords. Keep your content relevant. Improve the user experience (UX) of your website by reducing complexity and increasing speed. But other metrics matter too. Case in point? Redirect strings. These interconnected Internet problems cause problems for search engine spiders, frustration for users, and potential problems for your page’s ranking. But what exactly is a redirect chain? Why is it potentially problematic? And how do you find and remove these unintentional course corrections from the website? This is what you need to know.
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What is a redirect chain?
A redirect chain occurs when there is more than one redirect between the initial link that users click on and the final landing page. There are two common types of redirects: 301 and 302.
301 redirects occur when the landing page is permanently linked to a new URL and 302 redirects point to temporary pages while new content is being created or websites are being built. From an SEO perspective, both are treated the same. Consider a backlink from a reputable site that takes you to a page on your site, which we will call URL A. If users click the link and are directed directly to URL A, it is considered to be a single 301 redirect. Perfect. But what if the content of URL A needs an update? Update content with URL B, then set URL A to redirect users to the new page. This causes a redirect chain – your backlink leads to URL A which redirects to URL B. Add new pages and the chain gets longer and longer, and more …
Two reasons for redirects
In most cases, redirect chains are unintentional and usually occur for one of two reasons:
1. Content updates
Since changing backlinks elsewhere is not easy, you should contact the site owner, ask them to change the link, and hope they have time to do so; It is often faster to simply redirect the initial backlink to a new URL. However, as websites grow and content changes, the number of steps between the initial click and the final destination can increase dramatically.
2. URL details
Redirect chains also happen when businesses quickly expand their website, and little problems with specific URLs turn into bigger redirect problems. For example, consider the URL: http://www.yoursite.com/products Since it lacks the https now expected for secure website browsing, update the URL to: https://www.yoursite.com/ products This creates a redirect, but there is another problem: there is no forward slash after “products”. So what happens? Modify the URL again: https://www.yoursite.com/products/ The result? You have gone from one to three redirects with only minor changes. Combined with the new generation of content and applied to your site at scale, it’s easy to see how redirects can quickly spiral out of control.
The negative SEO impact of redirect chains
What’s the big deal with redirect chains, anyway? Since links point users and search engine crawlers in the right direction, what does it matter if a few extra steps are required? It turns out that large redirect chains can significantly affect your place in the SERPs for three reasons:
1. Link the loss of juice
The “boost” your site gets from reputable backlinks is often called “link juice” – the more juice you get, the better for your search rankings. With just one redirect from a backlink to your site, you get 100% of the juice. Add another 301 redirect and you get (on average) about 85% of the link juice. Add another and you get 85% of 85%, or just over 72%. The more links, the less juice.
2. Reduced site performance
It makes sense: the longer the chain, the longer it takes to load the landing page as browsers make their way through link after link. And since site performance is now a critical factor in driving SEO, more redirects mean lower rankings for your page.
3. Tracking concerns
Search engine bots will only crawl so far before giving up. Called your “crawl budget,” most smaller websites don’t need to worry about search spiders spending their entire budget before reaching the end of the site, unless redirects start to increase. The larger and more numerous your redirect chains, the longer it will take for search engines to reach the end. Eventually, they will just stop searching. Redirect loops are also worth mentioning. Here, the initial links lead to URL A, then URL B and URL C, and then back to URL A, causing a loop. Eventually, browsers stop redirecting and users end up with no content. Not surprisingly, your SEO suffers.
How to find redirect chains
While you can manually review your site and evaluate every page, every link, and every redirect, this takes a lot of time and resources, especially if you are in the middle of expanding your site or implementing a new content strategy. Best bet? Use online redirect verification tools to determine where your links are performing as intended and where they create potentially problematic chains. Some popular solutions include:
Just type your URL http: // or https: // to discover any 301 or 302 redirects for a specific page. This free tool is great if you’re only concerned with specific URLs, but it’s not ideal for browsing your entire site.
Sitebulb offers a series of reports that assess how easy your site is to crawl, where there are redirect problems, and how links are distributed on your site. Sitebulb offers a free 14-day trial followed by a monthly subscription model.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider lets you find broken links, audit redirects, and discover duplicate content. SEO Spider comes in free and paid versions; the biggest difference is that the free version will only crawl 500 URLs, while the paid version offers unlimited redirect reports.
DeepCrawl bills itself as the “world’s best website crawler” and offers three plans: Light, Light Plus, and Enterprise. The Light plan is designed for one project and 10,000 URLs per month, while Light Plus offers 40,000 URLs, and Enterprise comes with unlimited redirect recognition.
How to remove a redirect chain
Once you’ve found redirect chains, removing them is simple – just change the redirect link from the first landing page to the final URL instead of pointing to another redirect. In practice, this means changing the redirect from URL A, in our previous example, to URL C instead of URL B; in turn, skip the middle step and make sure your site doesn’t lose any links or SEO rankings. If URL B still has a backlink from other sites, you can leave your redirect to URL C intact. If it only exists as a bridge between the old URL A and the newer URL C, it’s worth removing the redirects entirely and delete or archive the page. Remember: each 301 redirect after the initial jump costs your site about 15% of the link potential. Fill up your SERP cup by reducing redirects whenever possible.
How to prevent redirect chains
To prevent redirect chains from building up over time, it’s worth checking your site regularly with redirect tools like the ones mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to keep track of new URLs as they are created, either by using a shared spreadsheet or by taking advantage of automated tools for this purpose, to help ensure that new URLs are connected to the first 301 redirect in instead of the later ones. by the chain.
Breaking Bad (chains)
Although it is not possible to completely avoid redirect chains of backlinks and other dofollow sources, SEO begins to suffer the longer these chains become. Best bet? Use robust redirect tools to find long-tail chains, break them down into smaller parts whenever possible, and develop URL management frameworks to reduce redirection risks.