When you have millions of pages on your site – many of them cycling in and out with inventory and content changes – it’s easy to plug in 301 redirects to stitch the pieces together between the old and new. While 301 redirects aren’t necessarily bad, cleaning them up periodically can go a long way. This is especially true if you have multiple 301s creating a redirect chain – or worse, a loop!
It’s important to identify the 301 redirected internal links on your site to make sure you’re not wasting search engines’ (and visitors’) time. Efficiency is key. Taking the time to cut out the middlemen (a.k.a. chains and loops) and point your 301s to the ultimate destination will improve your crawl budget. Additionally, you want to avoid linking to 301 URLs on your site (or in your XML sitemap) if possible, so it’s essential to find and update these links to point to relevant, compliant pages.
Side note: If you’re setting up redirects because your site has undergone a migration, you’ll want to update your previous redirects to point to the appropriate pages in the new design or structure rather than creating new redirects. This will help you avoid redirect chains and loops.
So, let’s get down to it.
How do you find your 301 redirects?
If you’re not a Botify customer, there are a couple of methods we would recommend using to find your 301s. You can find a number of browser add-ons (like this one) for Chrome, which will allow you to view one URL at a time to uncover redirect paths for 301s and other error codes. Another way you can test individual URLs is with resources like https://httpstatus.io/. Both types of redirect checkers are helpful if you have a specific URL you’re investigating and need to clean up a potential redirect chain or loop to navigate straight to the 200 URL.
In Botify, identifying all of your 301 redirected links is a breeze. Simply head to Analytics and follow this path: HTTP Codes, Top Charts, HTTP Status Codes Distribution or Insights, and then click 301 URLs in the pie chart. There are also a variety of other ways you can navigate to your 301s within Analytics and URL Explorer.
So, you’re able to see your single hop 301s, but what about your chains and loops? Easy. In Analytics, follow the path: HTTP Codes, Insights, and then URLs in a Redirect Loop or URLs in a Redirect Chain.
Botify can also tell you if you’re linking to a 301 redirect URL in your XML sitemap. If this is the case, you should update the links in your sitemap so that they only include the final destination URL (not the redirect).
What happens if you redirect to a non-compliant page?
It’s a good idea to make sure the pages you’re redirecting to are 200 status code compliant pages so that Google or another search engine doesn’t have to do additional work to follow the path, require more resources to load the page, etc. These hiccups can drastically affect your crawl budget, resulting in crawl waste. In Botify, you can easily see if the page you’re redirecting to is compliant (200 status) or not.
To note, a 200 status code can be non-compliant if the canonical isn’t pointing to itself. If the canonical on the ultimate destination doesn’t equal itself, the actions you need to take exist on the destination page (not the redirect link). Alternatively, if the canonical points to the redirect, you should change it to point to the ultimate destination page. Essentially, you’re trying to cut out as many jumps as possible and avoid sending confusing signals to Google about what the true “master” page is.
Prioritizing your 301 redirects to-do list
While a site visitor may not realize they’re being redirected, a 301 requires the browser to load two URLs (or more) to get to one page. This eats away at your crawl budget, so it’s a good idea to make sure the links to your most critical pages on your website aren’t going through 301 redirects. These pages include your:
- Revenue-generating pages
- Top-converting pages
- Navigation pages found in breadcrumbs
- Canonical pages
You can use the filter tool in Botify to visualize which pages comprise the majority of your 301 redirects, or you can use segmentation to observe a section of your site before drilling down to see if there are any 301s.
Alternatively, you can figure out which pages have the most redirect links to correct. This can help you correct more links in a short amount of time. You can see this in the Outlinks section of the report.
All that said, we’ve got great news. We recently launched ActionBoard, an SEO to-do list that prioritizes your most critical tasks so you can focus on high-impact actions rather than getting lost in the data. ActionBoard can tell you how many URLs are being impacted by 301 redirects, whether the number has changed over time, and more. If you’re already a customer, you can chat with your Customer Success Manager to get more information. For those who aren't yet Botify customers but want to know about ActionBoard, request a platform demo here.
What about external 301 redirects?
Google knows that external 301 redirects are a bit out of your control. After all, you’re relying on the owner of the website to update the link to your page if you need to change it, as well as relying on the owner of sites you’re linking to to notify you if they change theirs. That being said, set a good example by communicating with partners when you have a URL that needs to be updated, and hopefully they’ll do the same.
Keep track of your 301s!
It’s best practice to monitor your 301 redirects over time. While they’re not necessarily bad, they could accumulate and become redirect chains or loops, which could affect your crawl budget and your user experience. You can easily monitor your 301s long-term in the Botify dashboard and share the data with the rest of your team as needed. Keep your site squeaky clean – both on the surface and internally – to optimize for success!