Are Redirects Bad For Seo

Redirects are a necessary part of SEO. They ensure that your site has a smooth visitor experience and prevent loss of rankings. But redirects do more than just fix 404 errors or old URLs from the past. In fact, redirects can be a major part of an overall SEO strategy.

In this guide, we review the answers to the following: Are Redirects Bad For Seo, do redirects slow down a website, does domain forwarding affect seo, and why subdomains are bad for seo.

Are Redirects Bad For Seo

Redirects are a part of SEO. In fact, they’re a very important part of SEO. Redirects can help you keep your site clean, safe, and optimized for both users and search engines. However, there are some situations where redirects do more harm than good:

Redirects are a part of life. There are many reasons why you may need to redirect your users, and not all of them are bad. The important thing to remember is that when you use them, you must do it correctly.

Redirects are a part of life. There are many reasons why you may need to redirect your users, and not all of them are bad. The important thing to remember is that when you use them, you must do it correctly.

Not always necessary

Redirects should only be used when necessary. If something can be fixed with a 301 or 302, then don’t redirect it! Redirecting pages unnecessarily will load up your server with unnecessary requests and hurt page speed on the web page receiving the redirected visitor (and possibly even yours).

So, what is a redirect?

A redirect is a way of sending users to another page. If a URL (web address) is changed so that it now sends visitors elsewhere, this is called a redirect.

Redirects can be temporary or permanent. A temporary redirect will last only for the time it takes for the user’s browser to process the information and send them on their way, while permanent redirects mean that once they’ve been set up they will stay in place even after their expiry date has passed.

Permanent redirection can be used for many reasons: mobile-friendly websites, SEO purposes or even just because you want visitors to see an updated version of your site before you’ve finished making changes!

Redirects and Users

Redirects are used to direct users to a different location. This allows the site owner to maintain the integrity of their website and keep users on track with their intended goal. Redirects can also be used as a search engine optimization tool by directing visitors through several pages before finally landing on an important page (e.g., category page).

Redirecting a user is not all that difficult. In fact, we do it every time we log on to the internet. Users use redirects every day via the browsers and websites they use, but for the most part, they are not aware of the process. Googlebot is aware of it, though; when Googlebot finds an issue with a redirect, you could be in big trouble. Of course, this only applies when there’s a problem with your redirects. If everything is done correctly and there aren’t any issues, then using redirects can work very well in SEO.

Redirects are used to send a user from one page to another. They’re commonly used by browsers and websites, but they can also be implemented on Googlebot as well.

When you type in a URL into your browser (like google.com or facebook.com), your browser uses a redirect to determine where it should go next. Your browser will then open up the website specified in this URL so that you can see its content.

Googlebot does something similar when crawling and indexing pages on your website; however, instead of just opening up a new tab in the same window, Googlebot sends these requests off to its own server so that it can analyze and process them independently from any other request being made by another user on their computer or smartphone phone device! That sounds like an awful lot work doesn’t it? I bet there’s probably some way around doing all those extra steps just so they could get around while searching through our sites too…

Common Redirect Issues

  • 404 errors. If a page you’re trying to access isn’t found, or if an error occurs during the loading of a web page, your browser will display a 404 message. These are usually caused by broken links or incorrect URL information within your site.
  • Soft 404s: A soft 404 is not as obvious as an actual HTTP status code that returns a “404 Not Found” error but still provides a user experience similar to that of finding nothing on the site they were hoping for (hence why it’s called “soft”). This happens when someone tries to access the wrong URL and there’s no page present in the system at all—the server returns some other content instead (such as an error message).
  • 301 vs 302 redirects: The two most common redirect types are 301 and 302 status codes; here’s how they differ: A 301 means you’re permanently relocating your pages from one location in your site structure to another; when this happens, search engines will update their indexing systems so that future searches return pages from their new locations—which means more traffic for you! A 302 tells search engines that this move is temporary and kicks off an automatic pushup or pulldown process depending on whether these bots decide its value greater than zero (or less).

The most common problems associated with a redirect will be 404 errors and the dreaded “soft 404 error” in Google Search Console. However, there are some other errors worth mentioning too. For example:

The most common problems associated with a redirect will be 404 errors and the dreaded “soft 404 error” in Google Search Console. However, there are some other errors worth mentioning too. For example:

  • 301 vs 302 – A 301 means that your site is permanently redirecting to another domain, while a 302 means that your site is temporarily redirecting from one domain to another (or vice versa). If you have 301s set up for all of your pages, it could cause some major issues for people trying to access them due to their search engine optimization (SEO) ranking dropping significantly after being redirected.
  • 301 vs 302 – A 301 means that your site is permanently redirecting from one domain to another (or vice versa), while a 302 means that your site is temporarily redirecting from one domain to another (or vice versa). If you have 301s set up for all of your pages, it could cause some major issues for people trying to access them due to their search engine optimization (SEO) ranking dropping significantly after being redirected or not having any SEO benefit at all because they’re only temporary.
  • Hreflang tags – These indicate languages and regional variants of content on various websites around the world! They’re crucial when creating multilingual sites but can sometimes cause problems when things go wrong with certain SEO tools because they rely heavily on meta tags being used properly across multiple language versions of each page’s code base.

301 vs 302

It’s very important to know the difference between 301 vs 302 redirects. 301 is permanent, 302 is temporary. If you don’t know which one to use or why it matters, here is a quick primer:

301 – This means that the URL you are trying to access has moved permanently and you should update your bookmarks/favorites etc. It can also be used as an SEO signal that a page has been permanently removed from a site (as opposed to 404).

302 – This means that the URL has temporarily moved and will return shortly; however, it could also mean that there was something wrong with the request for example 2 files were requested instead of 1 file being sent back as HTTP/1 does not support multiplexing so if you attempt this type of request then all requests made on port 80 will fail until both files have been downloaded successfully .

do redirects slow down a website

A common question we hear from developers is if they can remove redirects in order to speed up the website. Will removing redirects reduce overhead on the server and make the website load more quickly? Alternatively, Google has suggested removing landing page redirects to reduce a website’s speed.

In this article, let’s review and test out the assumptions behind two key questions: Do redirects add to a website’s overhead enough to slow it down? Do landing page redirects affect a website’s speed?

TLDR

The details and data are provided below. The short answer is that, yes, redirects can add to a website’s speed. Here are a few key takeaways from this data:

Table of Contents

The .htaccess file is a configuration file on Apache servers (learn more) where you can specify a variety of directives that will control varying aspects of how the website operates. Among many other directives, that includes password protection, error handling, blocking access, and, redirects.

Putting redirects on the .htaccess file is fairly simple, making this a common method for establishing redirects on Apache servers. For example, this line of code will redirect matthewedgar.net/about-me to the home page:

That line begins by declaring this is a redirect directive and that should return a 301 response code. Next, the directive says that if the requested URL matches about-me, the server should redirect the request to / (the home page’s URL).

Redirect directives are read in sequential order to determine if one of those directives matches the requested file. If there are thousands of redirect directives, the server will need to review each to see if the redirect is a match. If a match is found, the server will immediately stop reviewing and process the redirect. However, if the requested file is not a redirect, the server will have to review each redirect directive to conclude there is no match.

As well, the server needs to review all of the redirect directives for every file requested. If there are a thousand redirects specified on the .htaccess file, then the server will need to read all thousand directives for every single file requested. If a web page loads 9 images, 2 CSS files, and 3 JS files, that is a total of 15 file requests to load the page (9 images + 2 CSS + 3 JS + the page itself) and for each of those 15 requested files, the server will have to check if the requested file matches one of the redirect directives.

This is why .htaccess redirects have the potential to impact speed: if there are lots of redirects and lots of files requested, the server may require excessive time to review and process all those redirects.

But how many redirects have to be specified before you create so much server overhead that you slow down the website’s load? To find out, I tested load speeds when there were zero to one million redirect directives in the .htaccess file. Let’s review the results and see how .htaccess redirects impact speed.

.htaccess Redirect Impacts on Speed

Time to First Byte

The first thing to check is if redirects impact the Time to First Byte (TTFB). TTFB is the time between the request being made and the server sending the first byte of data back to the requestor. Before any data can be sent back to the requestor, the server must read through the .htaccess file directives in order to understand how to respond to the request.

In the case of the TTFB, my tests found a 24% increase above no redirect directives once 5,000 redirect directives have been added. However, that only represents 0.047 seconds—which isn’t insignificant when it comes to your website’s speed but doesn’t present the largest concern either. After all, bigger gains could be made by adding caching to your website or minifying JavaScript files. As well, this small amount of time could be an error within the speed testing tool used. (All of those same remarks apply to 10,000-25,000 redirects where it adds .115-.116 seconds to the TTFB.)

Where we see a bigger impact on TTFB starts at 50,000 redirects. 50,000 redirects in the .htaccess file adds .225 seconds to the TTFB, a full 116% increase from the TTFB when there were no redirect directives on the htaccess file.

Time to First Byte Compared to .htaccess Redirects

In all my years of working on websites and adding redirects, I have never seen a redirect file that contained 50,000 redirects (let alone a million!) but if your .htaccess file does contain this many redirects, it might be time to reconsider each redirect to see if all of those are still necessary.

However, if you have fewer than 5,000 redirects on your .htaccess, I wouldn’t worry here—there are other ways to optimize your website’s speed. SEOMike conducted a similar test and found consistent results, with a notable jump in TTFB once more than 10,000 redirects were added and an even larger increase at 50,000 redirects.

This article was first published in 2019. Subsequent tests have continued to find similar results. However, the caching provided by certain hosting companies might help to offset the volume of redirects.

Start Render and Total Load Time

TTFB isn’t the only way we can measure the impact. We can also look at the load time and the start render. The load time is the time between the initial request and the document complete. The start render is the first time something appeared on the screen.

While in both cases the time increases as there are more redirects, the time increase isn’t nearly as substantial as what we saw from the TTFB. This makes sense—removing redirect directives from the .htaccess file is a means of improving the TTFB more than it is a means of improving start render or total load time because redirects slow down the initial connection with the server.

Total Load Time Compared to Total Redirects
Start Render Compared to Total Redirects

Redirects Impact TTFB

To more clearly see why it is the TTFB that is affected by the .htaccess file, we can look at the start render and load time with the TTFB factored out. The start render and load time without the TTFB are basically the same no matter how many redirects there are, save for minor fluctuation that likely has more to do with the speed test tool than the redirects.

File Size

In looking at the data above, it might seem like this is simply a file size issue. After all, if your .htaccess file includes 50,000 redirects, that file is going to be large (50,000 redirect directives added 2.75MB to my .htaccess file size in the tests above). Given this, it must harder for the server to read such a large .htaccess file and that must be what causes the slowdown.

However, it isn’t a file size issue. To test this, I added one million commented-out directives to the .htaccess file. One million redirects was 58.9MB and one million commented out lines was 59.9MB (slightly larger). One million redirects had a TTFB of 4.247 while commented out lines had a TTFB of .393. In other words, the size of the .htaccess file makes no difference. Rather, this is an issue of the server having to sequentially read all one million redirects. If there are no redirect directives specified, then the server doesn’t need to spend time reviewing and processing those redirects.

Regex Redirects (RewriteRule)

You can also create redirects in the .htaccess file using RewriteRule directives. This operates similar to the redirect we looked at above but offers more flexibility because, with RewriteRule directives, you can use regular expressions. A regular expression allows you to match several URLs at once instead of specifying individual URLs one by one.

For example, let’s say I want to move my blog posts from a date-based directory (such as mysite.com/blog/2019/blog-post-title) to a directory called articles (such as mysite.com/articles/blog-post-title). If I have 550 blog posts, I could write redirect directives for each blog post. But that would take some time to write those redirects out and, as we’ve seen above, there are implications for creating so many redirects. Instead of one-by-one redirects, a regular expression (or regex) would collapse the 550 redirects into one. In this example, the RewriteRule statement would be:

RewriteRule ^blog/2019/(.*)$ /articles/$1 [L,R=301]

In the above code, we’re starting the RewriteRule, then specifying a pattern for the server to match. In this case, the server is looking for any URL that begins with blog/2019. If the server finds a match, as it would for mysite.com/blog/2019/blog-post-title, it will redirect the user over to the /articles/ directory. But what makes this beneficial is the regex of (.*)$, which tells the server to grab anything after “2019/” and put it where the $1 is located after “/articles/”.

The final bit of this directive, [L,R=301], tells the server two things. First, the R=301 tells the server to send a 301 HTTP response status code to indicate this is a permanent redirect. Second, the “L” tells the server to stop processing, which improves the website’s load time.

As a result of all of this, RewriteRule directives (or regex redirects as they are sometimes called) offer us a means of reducing how many redirects are needed. That can help us avoid ever needing to have so many redirects in the .htaccess file. Even if there are no speed implications from having multiple redirects, minimizing the number of redirects will make it easier to manage and update the website.

As well, this also explains why redirects that take people from the www to the non-www version of a site or take people from the http to the https version aren’t a big deal for speed either. Both redirects can be accomplished in one RewriteRule that affects every URL on the website instead of having to create redirect directives for each individual URL.

Instead of placing redirects in the .htaccess file, either as RewriteRule or redirect directives, redirects can also be handled through content management systems, like WordPress. We typically recommend Redirection to handle redirects for companies who use WordPress to manage their websites. Using Redirection, you can add the redirect through a form, instead of having to write any code to the .htaccess file. You can also add regular expressions here, similar to how the RewriteRule directive worked in the .htaccess file.

Unlike the .htaccess redirect directives, the redirects in the Redirection plugin don’t have to be read sequentially when a file is requested from the website. Instead, the plugin saves all the redirects to a database. When a file is requested, the plugin checks the database to see if the requested file’s URL is contained in that database. If it is found in the database that means there is a redirect and, in that case, the plugin conducts the redirect. (This is a bit different when using regular expressions, though a similar logic applies—regex redirects through Redirection were not used in my tests.)

That means with this plugin, there shouldn’t be as much, if any, impact on speed—which is exactly what my tests showed. Even with up to a million redirects added, there was no difference in load time, start render, or time to first byte. You’ll notice that there are some fluctuations within the load time, but those differences are well within expected difference ranges you’d expect to find when running speed tests.

does domain forwarding affect seo

Let’s cut to the chase: yes, redirecting URLs will affect your site rankings in search engines. But whether the effect is good or bad depends on when, where, and how you redirect.

When executed correctly, you can change, remove, or even combine URLs and not only prevent a drop in rankings but actually gain traffic from organic search.

On the other hand, redirect a URL incorrectly, and you could lose all the authority from that page, causing you to drop in rankings and succumb to competitors.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we discuss the different types of redirects, domain-level redirects, and methods for implementation, you’ve got to know what a redirect is!

Lucky for you, our Director of Web Development helped write this blog, so you’re about to get some tips that you won’t hear from any old SEO agency.

Crash Course on Redirects

Website owners will inevitably need to modify their site. Maybe you’re changing the name of your business. Maybe you’re merging two websites, or you updated an old piece of content that you really want people to see.

URL redirecting makes each of these actions possible and plays a huge role in directing users – and search engines – to the right location.

Redirects work by pointing your old URL to your new page. If someone searches for or clicks on the old URL, they’ll be taken to the new page instead. In other words, redirects prevent users from ending up at a dead end.

You’ve probably seen digital dead ends before. They’re what’s known as 404 errors, and when you see one as in the dreaded image below, it’s because someone didn’t redirect their URL properly.

URL redirection is like highway redirection – the route is altered, but if everything goes smoothly, you’ll end up at your destination.

How Redirects Affect SEO

Here’s why redirects matter and should at least be considered as part of your SEO strategy: Google’s core algorithm assigns value, and therefore better ranking position, to URLs that contain high-quality backlinks.

Let’s break this down. The goal of search engines like Google is to put the most relevant, reliable sources in front of users. To do this, search engines’ algorithms have been designed to pick up on certain signals that help determine which pages are authoritative and trustworthy.

One of Google’s signals, called PageRank, is a part of the algorithm that places a higher value on websites that have backlinks from prominent, trustworthy sites. If a website has a good PageRank score, they are likely considered a trustworthy source in Google’s eyes.

Although PageRank has been around for at least a decade, many marketers are just catching on. But it’s better late than never to get your PageRank and redirects sorted – an article published by Stanford claims that PageRank “is an excellent way to prioritize the results of web keyword searches.”

Over time, as a website earns more high-quality backlinks, Google will start to view them as an “authority” and rank the URL accordingly.

But if a page is deleted or redirected incorrectly, those backlinks are lost, and the authority that that page had is thrown out. That means months of hard work and outreach can be lost in a second. That’s where proper redirecting comes in.

301 or 302 Redirects for SEO?

Of the different types, website developers use 301 and 302 redirects the most. But beware: not all websites are set up to benefit from 301s or 302s. There are specific circumstances where a 301 is needed, and there are specific circumstances where a 302 redirect is more appropriate. Let’s discuss what those circumstances look like.

When to Use a 301 Redirect

301 is a code sent from a web server to a browser, signaling a permanent redirect from one URL to another. This means that when a user clicks on a URL with a 301 redirect, they’ll automatically be sent to the new URL.

The standard for web developers, 301s tell Google that a page’s ranking signal should forever pass to the new URL. Not for a day, not for a month – forever. That’s why 301s are also known as “permanent redirects.”

301s transfer all ranking power and backlink authority from the old to the new URL and are most often used when a page is permanently moved or removed from a site.

For example, let’s say you have a blog about the state of Georgia. You’ve always posted updates to your blog on this subdomain: https://blog.georgia-facts.com. Now, you want to move your blog to a subfolder: https://georgia-facts.com/blog/. The original blog has been indexed by Google; you’ve included it in emails and social media posts, and people already subscribe to it. You don’t want to lose that traffic to your site, so you perform 301 redirects of each URL from the old subdomain to the new subfolder. Now, any visitors to the original blog page – even those who bookmarked the page – will be redirected to the new one, and you keep the traffic that you earned.

Now for some 301 updates from Google. The search engine recently announced that it will take a year for a 301 redirect to pass ranking signals from the old URL to the new one. However, if the web developer removes the redirect after a year, when a user visits the page they’ll see a 404 Error code and will not get passed to the new URL.

To prevent that from happening, it’s best practice to keep all redirects live.

When to Use a 302 Redirect

302s aren’t used as often as 301s but are helpful in some instances. They are temporary redirects, meaning users and search engines can visit them only for a limited amount of time before they are removed.

Because 302s can confuse search engines as they try to determine which page is of higher value – one that has been permanently or temporarily moved – these redirects are only useful if you are sure that the redirect will be removed in the near future.

One example of a helpful 302 redirect could be a merchant offering a seasonal item that they plan to sell with the same URL again. When the season is over, they may add a 302 temporary redirect to a different page selling a similar product so that users directed there are not brought to an unavailable product. Then, when they are ready to sell the original seasonal item again, they can remove that temporary 302 redirect.

Domain-Level Redirects

Sometimes it’s not enough to have individual redirects. Sometimes, you need to redirect your whole domain. For example, if you want to change the name of your business, but keep all of your content, you could redirect the whole domain to a new one.

Through domain redirecting (domain forwarding), web developers are able to forward every single URL from one domain to the desired domain.

Forwarding a full domain to a new one can be bad for SEO if not done properly. Fortunately, the legal design and development team at EverSpark can handle anything, including individual URL mapping for a beneficial transition.

why subdomains are bad for seo

At one time, subdomains were all the rage in the web development and digital marketing industry. For those of you who aren’t familiar, subdomains are a section of your whole domain that is most likely dedicated to a section of your site. For example; blog.example.com, shop.example.com, wholesale.example.com would be subdomains of the domain example.com.

Although the idea of keeping different sections of your site separated by intent may seem desirable at first, it can genuinely hurt your online presence in the long run.

How ecommerce sites suffer by using subdomains

It may seem like a great idea to set up your eCommerce website by using subdomains. Many people believe that subdomains could be setup for each product line to help boost the overall brand awareness and brand association. But on the contrary, Google treats all subdomains as separate domains.

Therefore, the product lines you set up as subdomains will be reindexed and seen as completely separate from the overall brand. Which means that SEO will have to be handled per subdomain without any brand association help from your main domain. So if it’s crucial to separate your product lines, you’re better off creating two totally separate domains since they’ll be viewed that way anyways. You may also just work around the issue by keeping the regular domain.

How B2B and content sites suffer by using subdomains

B2B sites oftentimes have blogs or resource centers that are set up as subdomains. As we talked about earlier, subdomains act independently of each other and the main brand domain. We recommend setting up blogs or resource centers as subdirectories (also known as subfolders).

Subdirectories are similar to subdomains in the way that they signify a different portion of the site, but they play off the SEO of your main domain. A subdirectory would look something like this: example.com/blog. Subdirectories can also simplify your user experience and increase your visitor’s overall time on site. Subdirectories make it easy to bounce from one site section to the next, while subdomains take you to a new site. Subdomains often require extra web development from internal or external developers.

Ultimately, the choice to use subdomains or subdirectories is ultimately up to you. One choice may make more sense to your business plan and give you the organization that your company needs.

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