What is a Redirect?
It’s unlikely that you’d reach this article not knowing what a redirect is but it’s recap quickly.
A redirect is when a page’s URL takes you straight through to a different page.
If you delete a page or update and edit a page of your website in a way that alters the URL of the page then you must consider whether redirects will be necessary. Without one, anyone trying to access the link above would get a page not found error.
Redirects are also important for search engines. Search engines get to know each page on your website. Each page accumulates authority. If you change the URL to the page, this authority is not able to flow to the new version of the page. If a redirect is in place, however, search engines can match the two pages and flow all the authority from the old version of the page to the new.
Types of Redirect
There are a few different types of redirects but we are concerned with two:
- 301 redirect (Moved permanently)
- 302 redirect (Found/Moved temporarily)
A 301 redirect is almost always the best redirect to use. For a long time it was the only redirect that passed authority from one page to another in the eyes of search engines. This has since changed, yet it still has an added benefit over a 302 redirect.
What is a Redirect Chain?
A redirect chain is when multiple redirects work on the same page at once.
What a Redirect Chain Looks Like
If you’ve restructured your website a few times or you’ve changed the URL of a page a couple of times before, you might end up with something like this:
which redirects to
So A > B > C
If you change a URL for the second time, you will want to update your original redirect to also point to the newest URL.
Are Redirect Chains a Problem?
You want to avoid redirect chains.
It is much easier and simpler for search engine crawlers (and much faster) if your redirects point straight to the new page, not a page that also redirects.
If you have a redirect chain your load times will be slower which will annoy Google and it’s likely to annoy your users too, it may even lead to them leaving the page before it’s even loaded. Some even argue that multiple redirects also increases the likelihood of losing page authority at each step, leaving you with a weaker page than you started off with.
Un-doing or avoiding redirect chains
To fix your URL chain, you will want to repoint the oldest page to the newest, avoiding the page in between. This will cut out any jumps.
Using the example above,
So you’d get A > C and B > C
When should you check for redirect chains?
This depends on what kind of website you’re running and what project you’re working on.
If you’re building a new website or doing a major migration then identifying and eliminating redirect chains should be on your list.
If you’re just managing a website then it’s something you could add to a list of your ‘due diligence’ activities every week or so (depending on how large your website is!).
How to identify redirect chains
Crawlers like Screaming Frog can also be used to pick up issues like this. There’s a tonne of free https status checkers out there too so there’s something for every budget.