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Why Redirect Chains Are Sh*t and I Spend Far Too Long Untangling That Crap!

Posted on the 13 March 2019 by Andykinsey @andykinsey

I don’t swear often on my blog, but perhaps that means I’ve got your attention. I hope so because that may mean you’ll read the next few hundred words and remember them for the next while…

If there is nothing else you take away from this article here are the take aways, right now upfront!

  1. Links don’t pass 100% value of a page’s worth to the page which is being linked or to which it is being redirected. There is a dampening effect on both a link and/or redirect (generally considered to be 0.85).
  2. This effect is a compound effect. So if you have an external link to a site which is then redirected twice, you could see 0.85, 0.85, 0.85 in a best case scenario – but not all redirects and links are considered equal and so this may vary and you could come off worse than this!
  3. Reduce the chan as far as you can, if you can replace the first link in the example above to the correct url do it! if not go back to the start of your redirect chain… don’t have redirect chains… they suck.
chaining redirects is shit for SEO
Photo by Tine Ivanič on Unsplash

Why Redirect Chains Suck?

PageRank is a factor you will likely have heard of if you are at all involved in organic search. It’s something I was never really into as a metric, it was simply the value of a link and page (though i’d argue there were better metrics) and well it was always out of date, plus rarely updated to the ‘public’. Today PR is part the wider factors used in search still, a very minor factor, though I always thought this was always the case.

Any how, why am I talking about PageRank?

Well PageRank is where link value is measured, it’s where the previously mentioned dampening effect comes from. It was first mentioned in the first patent for PR by Google.

So with the general metric in the patent set to 0.85, and with links and redirects alike able to compound this effect we can start to see that multiple links and redirect chains in particular can cause big issues for ranking (because afterall the more rankings are dampened the less it’s worth to search).

But there is more to this than just this one little consideration…

Redirect chains have other issues…

Redirect chains cause search bots big issues, after 4 “jumps” (redirects) search bots basically die, they stop their crawl attempt and give up. It’s the end game and game over. For web browsers (almost all of them) it’s after 5 jumps. This means you can have 20 jumps if you really want and in theory it would pass some micro value (at least in theory) but the reality is search engines will never see that value, and users will never get to that page and instead be served a 500 server error.

Lessons To Learn

Read the take aways at the top of this article for the key lessons.

But the top lesson is to reduce any redirects, you will thank me if you ever ever have to migrate a large website. There is nothing as painful as a multi-thousand page website needing redirects created where that are many-more thousand redirect chains that need unpicking first… its painful technically but it will be painful on the bank of the client too.

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