Redirect Chains: Meaning & How To Fix Them

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Updated 4/29/2024

Learn about redirect chains, a common SEO issue. Find why they create problems and how to fix them for your site.

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What is a Redirect Chain?

A redirect chain occurs when a webpage URL redirects to another URL, which redirects to another URL, creating a sequence of redirects before reaching the final destination.

It’s like a series of detours that lead to a final page. They should be avoided, as they slow down the site and have SEO consequences.

Negative Effects of Redirect Chains

Here are some key reasons why you should avoid redirect chains:

SEO

Redirect chains can significantly affect a website’s SEO performance. They consume crawl budget and weaken internal links, making it harder for search engines to index pages efficiently.

Website Performance

Each redirect introduces additional HTTP requests, leading to longer page load times. This is particularly bad for mobile users on slower connections. Moreover, redirects increase server load and consume more bandwidth and resources, which could be better used for delivering content. This not only affects user experience but can increase operational costs.

Redirect chains can dilute the link equity passed from one page to another.

Think of it like a recommendation from a friend of a friend of a friend. While the information is the same, it has less power. Google and other search engines tend to mimic this logic with how they prioritize results.

User Experience

Users expecting to visit a page might become frustrated by the delays and confusion caused by multiple redirects. This can lead to a negative website perception, decreasing user satisfaction and potentially reducing repeat visits.

Analytics Challenges

Redirect chains pose challenges in monitoring and managing a website. They can complicate tracking user journeys and conversions, as they may interfere with analytics scripts and cookies.

How to Detect Redirect Chains

Detecting bad redirects is important to maintaining site health and performance. Below is a concise guide on how to identify these chains.

SEO Tools

There are various online tools and services available for detecting redirect chains. We recommend these for most technical audits:

These tools provide detailed reports highlighting the URLs involved in the chain and the type of redirects used. Screaming Frog is great for beginners because it allows you to crawl 500 URLs for free.

Browser Developer Tools

Most modern web browsers come with built-in developer tools that can be used to track redirects.

In Google Chrome

  1. Right-click on a webpage.
  2. Click Inspect.
  3. Go to the Network tab.
  4. Navigate your site with the Network tab open to see the status codes of each request. 3xx HTTP status codes usually indicate redirects, and you can trace the path of the redirects in this panel.

Web Server Logs

Another effective method is to analyze your web server logs. These logs contain detailed records of all the requests made to the server, including any redirects that occur.

If you’re not sure about any of that, don’t worry! You can use other methods. If needed for a large site, you should work with a skilled engineer.

Manual Checking

For a more hands-on approach, you can manually check for redirects by visiting URLs and noting if the browser’s address bar changes unexpectedly.

This method is time-consuming and impractical for larger sites, but it can be useful for spot-checking.

Once you’ve identified redirect chains, document them and plan their resolution.

Is It Ever Good To Use Redirect Chains?

While uncommon, there are scenarios where a redirect chain might be beneficial despite the general recommendation to avoid them:

  1. Gradual Website Migrations: During large-scale website migrations or redesigns, redirect chains can be a temporary solution to ensure that users and search engines can still access content as the site’s structure changes. It allows for a phased migration, where old URLs are redirected to interim URLs, which are then redirected to the final URLs once the migration is complete.
  2. Tracking and Analytics: Sometimes, redirect chains are used for tracking user clicks or for analytics purposes. For example, an initial URL may redirect to a tracking URL, which then redirects to the final destination. This allows the website to gather data on user behavior or campaign performance.
  3. A/B Testing: In A/B testing scenarios, redirect chains can be used to direct different segments of users to different versions of a page for testing purposes. This often involves an initial redirect to a testing server or tool, which then redirects to the specific version of the page.
  4. Third-Party Platform Constraints: External platforms or third-party services can sometimes result in redirect chains. This is often out of the direct control of the website manager, especially when using complex web services or platforms with redirect systems.
  5. Temporary Promotional Redirects: For short-term marketing or promotional campaigns, a redirect chain can lead users through a series of pages, such as a special offer landing page that redirects to the main product page.

The key is to ensure the redirect chain is as short as possible, serves a clear and necessary purpose, and is monitored for performance impact. Additionally, once the specific need for the chain is resolved(like completing a website migration), revisit and streamline the redirects to avoid any long-term negative effects.

How to Fix Redirect Chains

While there are many ways to address them, these tips should help out for general situations:

  1. Analyze Each Chain: Map out and understand the purpose of each redirect in the chain. Determine which redirects are essential and which can be removed.
  2. Reduce Redirects: Modify the initial URL in the chain to point directly to the final destination, eliminating unnecessary intermediate steps.
  3. Update Internal Links: Review and update links on your website to point directly to the final URLs, thus bypassing any redundant redirects.
  4. Consolidate Necessary Redirects: When multiple redirects are unavoidable, streamline them so each one leads directly to its final destination without additional hops.
  5. Use 301s for Permanent Changes: Use 301 redirects for permanent URL changes to maintain SEO value.
  6. Conduct Regular Audits: Include redirect checks in your routine website audits to identify and address new redirect chains. Many SEO tools like those mentioned above can automate this process with scheduled crawls.
  7. Seek Technical Assistance if Needed: For complex or large-scale websites, consider getting help from a web developer or SEO specialist to manage redirects.
  8. Test and Monitor Post-Implementation: After making changes, test the website to ensure all redirects are functioning correctly and monitor the site’s performance.

Bottom Line

Redirect chains generally pose challenges to SEO, user experience, and site performance. Identify and minimize them using tools like Screaming Frog or others. Streamline redirects to ensure direct pathways and update internal links to optimize your website and search engine visibility.

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