6 redirect errors that can wreak havoc on your site traffic

Redirects are a natural part of the evolution of a site.

You can create a relevant service page or blog post today. But there may come a time in the future when it no longer makes sense to keep him alive.

So what are you doing? Redirect it to a similar page on your site.

If you migrate a site or change your site structure, you may have dozens of redirects in place.

Wait. What is a redirect?

A redirect is a way to redirect one URL to another. For example, suppose you sell widgets and have multiple pages:

  • example.com/products/widgets
  • example.com/products/blue-widgets
  • example.com/products/white-widgets

If you no longer only sell blue or white widgets or want to combine all pages into one, you can redirect your blue and white widget pages to your main widget page.

This helps keep your site organized, requiring fewer clicks to land on a page, and allows you to focus all of your optimization efforts on one page instead of many.

You can choose to use many types of redirects – 301, 302, 307, 308 – and you can redirect using meta-refresh, JavaScript, HTTP headers and others.

To learn more about the different types of redirects, check out the Technical SEO Guide to Redirects.

6 redirect errors that can hurt your site traffic

Each type of redirect or method used to redirect can benefit your site’s traffic and SEO, or can lead to lower traffic and rankings.

This is one of those areas where even a simple mistake can have a major impact on your site traffic.

Make sure to avoid these redirect errors and watch out for them if you experience a drop in traffic.

1. Redirect everything to your homepage

Bulk redirects to homepage

If you redirect every page to your homepage in an effort to rank on competitive terms, you may be doing more harm than good. Google’s John Mueller talked about this a few years ago:

“Redirecting everything to the homepage is very bad practice because we lose all the signals associated with the old content.”

He explains that when a large number of pages redirect to your homepage, it is a red flag for search crawlers.

What can happen?

Google won’t see all those positive signals you had built on the old URLs. The value of this content is lost.

2. Redirect loops that never end

Redirection loops.Redirect loops

A redirect loop can easily be avoided by having each new redirect tested. These loops happen when you redirect pages like this:

Page 1 > Page 2 > Page 3 > Page 1

In this case, the redirect will continue to bring the person back to page 1 and will likely be stopped by your browser, which recognizes the loop. From the crawler’s perspective, the pages will likely be de-indexed because the crawler has no idea what’s going on.

If these pages are the main pages or generate a lot of traffic for your site, you will lose a lot of revenue in the process.

3. Sending crawlers through redirect chain nightmares

Redirect chains.Redirect chains

Do you want to degrade the user experience and impact the ranking of your site? Create redirect chains. This happens often, and if you have several people working on your site, they are quite easy to create.

How? ‘Or’ What?

Multiple redirects take place in a chain.

For example:

  • /about is redirected to /aboutus
  • /aboutus is redirected to /ourcompany
  • /ourcompany is redirected to /aboutourcompany

You want to create a Single redirect from /about to /aboutourcompany to avoid a redirect chain that can:

  • Slow site speeds.
  • Increase bounce rate.

Point: If you go down to tip 6, you’ll find a surefire way to avoid those redirect chain nightmares.

4. Forgetting that case sensitivity matters

Case sensitivity is important when writing your redirect rules.

Fortunately, John Mueller tweeted “URLs are case sensitive, but choose whatever case you want.”

You can have “/about” or “/About” if you want.

But if someone types your URL into a browser, they’re unlikely to remember which case you used or not. Most people will keep the URL lowercase.

There are many ways to create a redirect, but a lot of people use .htaccess on Apache servers. One way to help eliminate case-sensitive issues is to use the “NC” parameter when using RewriteRule.

For example, you can redirect the following page in case insensitive using:

Redirect 301 /about http://www.domain.com/about-new [NC]

And if the person types “about, about, about” or any other combination of cases, all will be redirected to “about again” without problem.

5. Use a 302 redirect instead of a 301 redirect

Are you planning or already using a 302 redirect? Should it be a 301 redirect instead?

Many site owners think that it doesn’t matter what type of redirect they use, because page A is always redirected to page B.

But these site owners are wrong.

301 redirects are permanent.

Do you want to let search engines know that the redirect is permanent? If so, use a 301 redirect.

The SEO value of the original page or website is retained and the original site or page will stop being indexed.

302 redirects are temporary

A 302 redirect says “Hey Google, this page is temporarily redirecting but will be back soon”.

You want to use these redirects when temporarily moving, such as when testing a new design or sending users to a new page due to an ongoing redesign.

You tell the search engines the page will be back, so it:

The new page you are redirecting to not receive link equity from the original page. You leave PageRank behind with a 302 redirect.

So what should you do?

If the page is going to come back soon, use a 302 redirect. Otherwise, a 301 redirect is ideal.

If 302 redirects are kept too long, search engines like Google may consider it to be a 301 redirect.

6. Not following your redirects

If you have a business site, hundreds or thousands of pages, or work with many SEO professionals, you need to create logs to track changes to your site.

Why?

You need benchmarks to track the changes that have been made so that you can go through your analytics and decipher which changes have resulted in increased or decreased traffic.

Since redirects can be done at the page or server level, keeping track of them is essential.

You may open your .htaccess file, see no redirect for a certain page, and assume there is none in place.

Someone else on your team may have used JavaScript or a meta-refresh on the page, causing a redirect loop.

Tracking your redirects helps current and future SEO professionals avoid common redirect issues that can impact your site traffic and revenue.

You should also have protocols in place that require all new redirects to be tested and verified to ensure they are working properly.

Wrap

Site redirects are a powerful tool that helps shape your traffic and can be used to improve user experience. As your site grows in size and complexity, chances are you’ll need to use redirects at some point.

Avoiding the top mistakes above can help you avoid costly and time-consuming problems in the future.

More resources:


Image credits

In-post images created by the author, July 2021