Do you ever feel like you’re going on a digital detour? You probably know what I mean. You click on a link, and it seems to take you through a whole series of other links until you finally arrive at the page you wanted.
It’s time-consuming and frustrating. We call these series of links redirect chains.
According to Semrush, 8.58 percent of websites have a redirect chain.
Sure, it’s not a huge amount, but it’s a problem worth fixing to improve the customer experience.
In this post, I’ll explain what redirect chains are, how to spot them, and how to fix them.
If that sounds good, then let’s get started with an explanation.
What Is a Redirect Chain?
I’m sure you’ve taken the scenic route at least once during your travels.
Rather than going from point A to point B, you go the long way around before you finally get where you’re supposed to be.
A redirect chain works similarly. It’s a series of HTTP redirects that occur when a web browser or server sends a request to access a specific URL. Let’s take a look at an example:
In the scenario above, when a user or search engine tries to access URL A, they are redirected to URL B, and then redirected again to URL C before reaching the final destination, forming a redirect chain.
Problems arise when this involves multiple redirection steps, creating a “chain” of redirects.
Aside from being confusing, these redirects slow down the customer’s journey, making for a poor customer experience. In addition, search engines have a harder time understanding your website structure which can affect your rank in the search engine results page (SERPs). Redirect chains affect SEO in other ways, too. I’ll explore those next.
How Redirect Chains Hurt SEO
Let’s talk about redirect chains and SEO.
Addressing redirect chains isn’t just about keeping your visitors happy. You also want to avoid them because of the impact they can have on your SEO.
These days, Google puts a greater emphasis on the user experience. Naturally, it wants searchers to find the content they’re looking for quickly and easily. That’s why search engines aren’t so keen on pages or sites that take users along the scenic route.
If there’s something about your website that Google doesn’t like—such as slow loading pages due to redirect chains—you could lose position in the SERPs which in turn affects your overall visibility, conversions, and leads.
Then there’s “link juice.”
This is a term used in SEO to describe the value or authority that a hyperlink from one webpage passes to another webpage. Redirect chains can burn up your link juice and negatively affect your SEO efforts.
Delayed crawling is another issue. Search engines like Google can abandon crawling if a website has too many redirect chains.
The Relationship Between Old Content and Redirect Chains
Adding a redirect makes sense if you’re moving content to a new domain or optimizing URL slugs.
Additionally, every blog owner has content that needs updating, or you might have had a website revamp and made some URL changes.
Website owners typically add redirects when updating content to take readers to a new or refreshed page. I use redirects on my blog to ensure visitors and search engines are pointed to the correct URLs when I update older content.
It seems like an easy enough fix, doesn’t it?
However, things can go wrong if you don’t check redirect chains, so instead of getting taken to the new URL, your reader gets kind of gets lost in transit.
When redirect chains are in place, this can affect a website’s performance, increasing load times and causing 404 errors and broken links.
To avoid this issue, it’s best to limit redirects by ensuring the redirect goes straight to the final target URL when updating content to speed up your site and keep visitors satisfied.
Redirect Chains vs. Redirect Loops
As I’ve discussed, a redirect chain occurs when a website has multiple redirects guiding visitors from one URL to another.
For instance, URL One takes the visitor to URL Two, then URL Three, and so forth.
A redirect loop refers to two or more redirects directed toward one another. This then creates a “loop” and keeps visitors stuck there.
Redirect loops can be caused by a few things, such as incorrect redirect configurations, conflicting redirect rules, or issues with caching. They can occur within a website’s internal URLs or between different websites.
The easiest way to fix them is by removing one of the redirects and breaking the loop, which we’ll discuss in more detail later..
Now you know the problems a redirect chain can cause, it’s time to discuss how to find them.
How to Find a Redirect Chain
Before removing them, you’ll first need to check for a redirect chain.
You can take some manual steps to discover redirect chains. However, using a tool or installing a plugin will make life much easier.
I like to use Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, which lets you upload a bulk list of URLs, or it can scan your website.
To use Screaming Frog, follow these instructions;
- Download the SEO Spider tool (it’s free for 500 URLs).
Head over to Screaming Frog’s website and you’ll see a button to download the tool.
- Open the tool and enter your website URL.
Once you’ve installed the tool, you can check for redirects by crawling a website or uploading a list of URLs. To begin, you should see something like this:
In this example, I entered https://www.neilpatel.com at the top of the screen to use as an example then hit “start.”
After a few minutes, the tool crawled my website and returned the following overview:
- View redirects by clicking the “Response Codes” tab and selecting the “Redirection 3XX” filter.
To dig a little deeper, I checked the tab under the search bar for “Response Codes” then applied a filter to search for “Redirection 3XX”. These status codes mean the requested resource has moved to a different location and the client needs to follow a redirection to reach the desired resource.
- Look at the redirect destination under the “Redirect URL” column.
With the filters applied, you can see the address, content type, status code, indexability, indexability status, inlinks, response time, redirect URL, and redirect type for each 3XX redirection. At this point we want to focus on the “Redirect URL” column.
- Go to the “Inlinks” tab to find the source of the redirect.
Now you have a list of your URLs, select one then navigate to the bottom of the page and find the tab for “inlinks.” From here you can see the source of the redirect.
- If you want to view the links in a spreadsheet, go to the “Bulk Export” option at the top of the menu. Then click “Response Codes” and “Redirection 3XX links.”
- To view internal redirect chains or find redirect loops, click on “reports” in the top menu shown in step 6. Export the redirects report.
Go to the top menu, select “Mode,” and then ”list.” You can upload your URLs via file or paste them in manually.
Screaming Frog suggests reading the “How to Audit Redirects Using the SEO Spider” guide before uploading bulk URLs.
Tools to Help You Find Redirect Chains
There are several tools available that can assist you in identifying and resolving redirect chains on your website. Here is a list of tools that can be useful:
Yoast SEO (WordPress plugin): Yoast is WordPress’s most popular plugin. Among its many features is a redirect manager that helps you eliminate 404 errors and deadends and redirects users and bots away from old weblinks to their new URLs. It also creates redirects when you delete an old blog post. However, it only works with paid WordPress accounts, and you’ll also need to buy the Yoast plugin.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider: This website crawler tool identifies redirect chains and loops on your website. You can use it to crawl your site and analyze the redirect structure, helping you identify and resolve any redirect chain issues.
Ahrefs SEO Toolbar: A helpful tool if you need to detect long redirect chains. It provides a free feature for checking redirect chains and other SEO-related website issues.
Httpstatus.io: If you’ve recently migrated your website, use this tool to test redirects. It checks for and identifies redirect chains and HTTP status codes and gives you tips for checking redirect issues.
Small SEO tools: This is a free redirect checker tool. Use it to get redirect insights, check for URL redirects and review the redirect path, identify if a URL has multiple redirects, and give information about the entire redirect chain. To use the tool, enter your URL and click on the blue “redirection” box.
Redirection (WordPress plugin): A popular tool that lets you manage 301 redirections and 404 errors. You can use it to find anything from a few to thousands of redirects. Redirection can also check when post and page permalinks get an update and automatically update them.
Google Chrome Dev Tools: Using this tool, you can navigate to a webpage you want to check for redirects by assessing the network requests and filtering status codes to see if a redirect has occurred. Like the other tools, this one can handle multiple redirects as there is no specific limit on the redirects you can check.
By using any of the above tools, you can successfully locate redirects, then it’s time to fix them.
How to Fix a Redirect Chain
Fixing a redirect chain involves ensuring the old URL is redirected directly to the new URL. The goal is to remove unnecessary redirects within the chain to keep your “link juice” and improve the user experience. Here’s how you can do that:
- Identify the redirect chain: Check your website for any redirect chains. Do this using redirect checker tools like the ones mentioned in this post.
- Update the redirects: Once you’ve identified the redirect chain, update the redirects to ensure the old URL is redirected directly to the new URL. You can do this by modifying the .htaccess file. However, this method can create even more errors if you don’t get it right. You can also use a WordPress plugin or remove any unnecessary redirect chains with a tool like Botify.
- Test the redirects: After updating the redirects, ensure they work correctly. You can use online redirect checker tools or manually test the URLs to verify that the redirects work.
- Update internal links: After fixing the redirect chain, update any internal links pointing to the old URL. Update these links to the new URL to ensure a seamless user experience and avoid potential redirect loops.
You’re all done!
A redirect chain refers to the series of redirects that happen when you try to access a URL. This can happen because you’ve moved a page, and the URL needs updating. Instead of going straight to where you want to go, the browser or search engine goes through several redirect chains.
Go to Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider and enter your URL. The tool then crawls the website and produces a “redirect chains” report detailing URLs with multiple redirections.
The quickest way is to use a tool or a WordPress plugin. To do it manually, you can update your website’s .htaccess or server configuration to create a single redirect, but only if you have the expertise.
You’ll need to go to your website’s server or content management system and access the configuration files. Next, remove the redirect chain and replace it with a single redirect page to
Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, Ahref’s SEO toolbar, and Redirect are just some of the redirect chain checker tools you can use.
WordPress plugins include Yoast SEO and Redirection.
Yes. Redirect chains damage SEO by causing slow loading times. Page speed is a Google ranking factor, so anything that slows loading times can be bad news for your website ranking.
Understanding and addressing a redirect chain gives your visitors the seamless and efficient user experience they want.
By fixing redirect chains, you can improve load times, stop error messages from frustrating visitors, and avoid confusing search engine crawlers.
Now you’ve read this far, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of redirect chains, their potential impact on SEO, and know how to fix them.
All it takes is a tool like Screaming Frog to identify a redirect chain, hone in on the problem URLs, and improve your website experience.
Have you experienced redirect chain issues? How did you fix them?
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