Redirect chains are the invisible pest. They harm your SEO, but they’re difficult to find on your own. In fact, discovering your site’s redirect chains, and how exactly they’re hurting your SEO, is the hardest part of getting rid of them.
But redirect chains are relatively simple to eliminate once they’ve been identified, leading to quick SEO wins. In this blog, we’ll explain what redirect chains are, why they’re bad for SEO on enterprise websites, and how to find and remove them.
A redirect chain is a series of pages with more than one redirect between the initial URL and the destination URL.
So how do redirect chains work? Consider the example above.
The redirect chain begins with a link from Page E to Page A. Page A then redirects to Page B. Then Page B redirects to Page D, which is the actual destination page. Here, in this simplest of examples, you can see that the extra hops are unnecessary. This is a redirect chain in its most basic form.
The chain can also grow from other pages that link to the redirects. In the example above, Page E links to a redirect (Page A), and Page F links to another redirect (Page B). These pages unwittingly become a part of the redirect chain. To disrupt the chain without causing other SEO issues, you’ll also have to identify not only the redirects, but the pages that link to them.
When do redirect chains become a problem? Imagine the same redirect chains being linked to 5, 10, 50+ times, all pointing to the same destination page. At best, this is poor site design, and at worst, it creates a poor user experience and can harm SEO.
Redirect chains can have an adverse effect important factors such a load time. The bigger the chain, the longer the destination page will take to load. This has a strong negative impact on user experience and the resulting effects like high bounce rate can ding your search performance, especially on mobile.
There’s also a more fundamental problem at play. Pages in redirect chains are less likely to be crawled by search engines. This missed opportunity means strategic pages like the destination page are being crawled less frequently, if at all. This can also mean increased page depth for destination pages, an important indicator for site structure.
Consider this Botify graph which shows the crawl ratio by depth data for an enterprise website. We define page depth as the shortest click path from the homepage to that page on the site. As you can see, the greater the depth, the less likely Googlebot is to crawl the page.
Furthermore, some of those needless redirects are getting crawled, which eats up crawl budget. This blocks pages that actually drive traffic from getting crawled. On enterprise sites, over 40% of content is uncrawled by Google, on average. Redirects chew up the limited resources Googlebot has for an enterprise site, while other traffic and revenue-driving pages are ignored.
For more insight into crawl budget and how to optimize it, read some of our past blogs on the topic:
Luckily, removing redirect chains is simple, once you find them. Webmasters simply need to update the link on the source page to point directly to the destination page. This bypasses the series of redirects and removes the resulting challenges of slow load time and increased page depth. But they also might want to update redirect rules since Google may keep the known redirects in a crawl queue (even if low priority) for some amount of time after.
Finding redirect chains, on the other hand, can be a challenge but one that’s made much simpler with an SEO platform. An SEO platform can do the work you can’t, by finding technical SEO issues that lurk beneath the surface.
Botify can identify pages in redirect chains in a few clicks. Discover all redirect chains in the HTTP Status Codes report in the user interface.
Click on “URLs in Redirect Chain”. This will create a list of pages that are part of redirect chains. For each URL, you can see the page it immediately redirects to, the destination page, and the number of hops until the destination. You can also identify the pages that link to these redirects by adding a filter for the number of internal links per page.
Redirect chains are easy to fix, but hard to identify. But by using an SEO platform like Botify, you can score some quick wins by generating lists of redirect chains, and updating linking.
Removing redirect chains is just one strategy for improving the technical health and performance on your site. When paired with the removal of 404s, or the elimination of low quality orphan pages, or any number of revelations offered by an SEO platform, the process becomes part of a broader SEO strategy that combines big picture insights with URL-level detail.
In a process of optimization anchored by SEO analysis, you’ll increase the crawl, improve the user experience, rise in the rankings, and drive organic traffic by solving the SEO puzzle, one piece at a time. Start solving your own SEO puzzle and request a customized demo of Botify now.