What Are Redirect Chains? How Do They Impact SEO?

By January 7, 2017SEO, Technical SEO

This post is the first of a two part series about redirect chains. Part one will talk about what redirect chains are and the implications they have for SEO. Part two will show you how to find them.

What is a redirect chain?

A redirect chain occurs when there is more than one redirect between the initial URL and the destination URL. When a URL is redirected, it should have a single 301 redirect in place. Most redirect chains happen inadvertently for one of two reasons:

double 301 redirect chain diagram

Reason #1: Redirect chains are built over time. URL A is redirected to URL B, then a year later URL B is redirected to URL C.

site wide redirect chain diagram

Reason #2: A combination of HTTPS vs. HTTP, www vs. non-www and trailing slash vs. non-trailing slash redirects results in site-wide redirect issues. Commonly done during website migrations or relaunches where redirects are built in series instead of in parallel.

Why are Redirect Chains a problem?

losing link equity from 301 redirects

Conventional wisdom has been that 301 redirects only pass about 85% of link equity. So if you have a backlink pointing to URL A, and you redirect URL A to URL B, URL B only gets about 85% of the value of the backlink. Unfortunately, that’s unavoidable.

link equity loss from 301 redirect chains

If you have redirect chains, the conventional wisdom is that the loss in link equity is compounded. If there are two redirects in place, that becomes 85% of 85%, or roughly 72%.  The more redirects there are, the worse it gets. The SEO team at Wayfair saw the real impact of this earlier this year when they correlated traffic drops with dates when additional redirects were added.

how googlebot handles 301 redirect chains

Unnecessary redirects also make it more difficult for Google to crawl the site, which can affect how well pages are indexed. Googlebot may give up if it encounters too many redirects. Multiple redirects can also result in marginally slower site speed which negatively impacts the user experience.

Redirect Chains vs. Redirect Loops

what is a redirect loop diagram

Redirect chains are not to be confused with redirect loops, which is where URL A redirects to URL B then URL B redirects back to URL A. However, part two will show you how to look for those as well.

Now that you know what redirect chains are, check out part two where I’ll show you how to find them. Thanks!

Chris Berkley

About Chris Berkley

Chris is a digital marketing consultant specializing in SEO and Analytics across industries including healthcare, education, finance and others.


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