What are redirect chains and loops?

Table of Contents

Let’s Begin with Redirect Chain

An initial URL requested and its final destination are both redirected at least once. This is known as a redirect chain.

This means visitors and search engine crawlers will take longer to load URL C because of URL A redirects to URL B.

What Causes a Redirect Loop?

It is common for redirect loops to occur because of poorly configured redirects. Incorrect redirect rules in the configuration of your web server or CMS, CDN redirect rules, or a misalignment between these systems are all possible causes.

Think about when you have redirects configured for old URLs on your web server, but then move all future redirects to your CMS’s redirect manager. Having a redirection from URL A to URL B in the configuration of your web server is one thing. Implementing a redirection from URL B to URL A is another.

Difference between redirect chains and loops

In contrast to redirect loops, redirect chains are different. A redirect chain knows where to go, whereas a redirect loop involves a closed redirect chain, an infinite circle of redirects.

This is what a redirect loop looks like:

Ready to Chat About
Redirect Chains

Drop us a line today!

Redirect Looping

Why are redirect loops bad for SEO?

Browsers display errors when they encounter redirect loops. The destination page will never be displayed because of this issue. 

When search engines figure out they’re caught in a redirect loop, they’ll stop following the redirections.

When a redirect loop occurs, this process never finishes, because the final URL never resolves, so ranking signals (such as example link authority) are transmitted from one URL to another. The rankings are thus affected.

How do I resolve a chain redirect?

The time has come to learn how to correct redirect chains if you believe they are a serious problem. To assist with this process, you can use an array of technical SEO tools.

We will look at Screaming Frog in this blog, as it is the most popular tool of all. 

In order to begin, you must identify which redirect chains and loops you have.

Look under Reports > Redirects > Redirect Chains in Screaming Frog for the Redirect Chains tool.

Using the filter, run the report on pages that return 301 or 302 status codes. An entire list of URLs is displayed for each chain or loop.

To use this report as your worksheet, you can export it to an Excel or Google Doc. 

Here are the four ways redirects could be hurting your SEO efforts:

  1. Your redirection chains are set up
  2. Using redirects for internal links
  3. Too many 301s are being generated for no reason
  4. You have canonical tags that redirect to your website

Why are redirect chains bad for SEO

In any case, why are redirect chains such a big deal? What does it matter if there are a few extra steps if the links point users and search engines in the right direction?

Several factors can have a significant impact on your rank in SERPs when you have large redirect chains:

1. Reduced Link Juice

You may be familiar with the term “link juice” which refers to the boost your site gets from reputable backlinks – as you get more juice, the stronger your search ranking will be.

When a backlink points to your site, even one redirect will get you 100% of its juice. Another 301 redirects will get you about 85% of the link juice (on average) with another 301 redirects. There is less juice when there are more links.

2. Reduced Site Performance

Link after link leads to a longer loading time on your destination page as servers work through the links one by one. Now that site performance is a crucial component of boosting SEO, more redirects mean lower page rankings.

3. Crawling Concerns

Eventually, search engine bots will stop crawling. Search spiders are not likely to exceed their crawl budget before reaching the end of most smaller websites – unless redirects escalate.

Search engines will take longer to reach the end of bigger and more numerous redirect chains. It won’t take long for them to stop looking.

Redirect loops should also be mentioned. A hyperlink leads to URL X, then URL Y, then URL Z, and back to URL X, creating a loop. When the browser stops redirecting, the user is left with nothing to watch. This results in lower search engine rankings.

How to Find Redirect Chains

It is possible for you to go through each page, each link, and every redirect on your site manually, but this is a resource- and time-intensive – especially if you are in the process of expanding your site.

What’s the best option? Online redirect checkers can help you identify which links are working correctly and which are causing problems. Among the most popular solutions are:

Search for broken links, audit links, and find duplicate content with the SEO Spider from Screaming Frog. In addition to the free version, SEO Spider also offers a paid version that offers unlimited redirect reports. The main difference between the two is that the free version crawls only 500 URLs.

Find out if a page has been redirected 301 or 302 by typing in your http:// or https:// address. Free URL checking tools can be useful for specific URLs, but they aren’t designed to scan whole websites.

The company offers three plans: Light, Light Plus, and Enterprise, and bills itself as the “world’s best website crawler.”. For example, the Light plan allows you to submit 10,000 URLs per month for one project, while the Light Plus plan allows you to submit 40,000 URLs, and the Enterprise plan provides unlimited redirection reports.

Sitebulb provides a host of reports that measure your site’s crawl-friendliness and where redirect issues are occurring, as well as what links are spread out around it. The free trial period runs for 14 days, then Sitebulb offers a monthly subscription.

How to Remove a Redirect Chain

In the event you find redirect chains, removing them is straightforward – simply provide a link pointing toward the final URL and not another redirect instead of the first destination page.

 

For example, URL C will redirect URL A instead of URL B in the example above, allowing you to skip the middle step and protect your SEO ranking. You can leave URL B’s redirect to URL C intact if it is still backlinked by other sites. It may be worthwhile to delete or archive the page if it only serves to bridge older URL A to the newer URL C.

 

The link juice you gain from an initial jump is approximately 15% lost with every 301 redirects after that. Cut down on redirects wherever possible to fill up your SERP cup.

How to Prevent Redirect Chains

Using redirect tools such as those mentioned above will help you prevent redirect chains from building up over time. A good idea is to keep track of new URLs at the time they’re created, either by using a shared spreadsheet or by using automated tools, in order to make sure that new URLs are associated with the first redirect instead of the ones further down.

Redirect chains should be avoided for three reasons.

  1. Crawling with a delay: Google generally does not follow more than five redirect hops in any one crawl. It then aborts the crawl in order to conserve crawl resources and prevent getting stuck. You may experience indexing issues as a result of this.
  2. During redirects, not all link equity or page authority is preserved. Thus, even a single extra hop decreases the amount of page authority passed on. The target URL will only receive 85.7% of the link equity originally passed on in a chain of three redirects, and you lose 5% with every redirect.
  3. The page will load more slowly: Redirecting users to other pages in the same domain increases page loading times, reducing crawl budget. Search engine bots need to request an additional URL any time they receive a 3xx status code. As a result, search engine bots can spend less time crawling other pages if they are forced to wait.

What's the best way to reverse a 301 redirect

301 redirects are permanent redirects that pass between 90 and 99% of the link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page. Redirections on a website are most often implemented using the 301 redirects.

Suppose you wanted to reverse a 301 redirect so users would be directed back to the original page? Can it be done?

Yes, in a nutshell. Despite its technical permanence, the redirect may not work as you’d hope and could lead to additional problems.

The following are four different 301 redirection scenarios with specific details about each.

Scenario #1: Single-page, full reverse

You will need to do the following to perform this 301 redirect:

  • Removing 301 redirects from X→Y
  • You should add a redirect from Y→X
  • Link internal resources to Page X
  • Fill out the Google Search Console (GSC) for both pages
  • It will take time for Google to re-cache Page Y

Don’t fall into the trap of disregarding Page Y. If you’re hiding crawlers from Page Y, it will take time for Google to process the new signals.

Scenario #2: Single-page, keep both

What you need to do to ensure both pages appear in the same search results is as follows:

  • Removing 301 redirects from X→Y
  • The rel-canonicals need to be self-referential (X→X, Y→Y)
  • Submit both pages to Google Search Console (GSC)

Page Y will be treated as an independent entity if the rel-canonicals are self-referential. If a redirect was originally configured, however, authority is now split between both.

If you want Page Y to be hidden from search but still exist for say, legal reasons, you’ll need to:

  • Removing 301 redirects from X→Y
  • Add the rel-canonical attribute to Y→X
  • Link internal pages to Page X
  • Submit both pages to Google Search Console (GSC)

Scenario #3: Site-wide URL reverse

Changes to all URLs on a site can be risky, especially since Google ranking signals will be further confused if the change is reversed. Those who are migrating from http*https, for example, should follow these steps:

  • Remove all 301-redirects from X→Y
  • Install 301 redirects across the entire site from Y→X
  • Canonicalize all pages with self-referential
  • Link internal pages to “X-type” URLs
  • XML sitemap(s) for X-type URLs should be redeveloped
  • Ensure Google Search Console (GSC) is informed about critical web pages
  • Link to selected web pages at “X-type” URLs

There is a limit to the number of pages that can be submitted through Google Search Console, so only submit high-authority pages and those with extensive internal linking structures. Even authoritative external or inbound links need to be contacted and asked nicely to re-point to your original URLs.

Scenario #4: Domain change reverse

Scenario #3 can often be riskier because there are elements of your domain’s history that can affect your rankings regardless of how well or poorly 301-redirects were implemented. As a last resort:

  • Remove all 301-redirects from X→Y
  • Install 301 redirects across the entire site from Y→X
  • Canonicalize all pages with self-referential
  • Internal Links should be redirected to Domain X
  • Register Domain X with Google Search Console (GSC)
  • Create new XML sitemaps (for Domain X)
  • Provide Google Search Console with critical pages (GSC)
  • Inbound links from Domain X should be redirected

Create your full XML sitemap(s) again if you’ve removed your own GSC profile.

Breaking Bad (Chains)

Despite the fact that backlinks and other dofollow sources have redirect chains, SEO starts suffering from them as the chains grow longer and longer. Is there a better option? Develop URL management frameworks to decrease redirect risk by using powerful redirect tools to identify long-tail chains and tackling them as smaller pieces as possible.

About the Author

My name’s Semil Shah, and I pride myself on being the last digital marketer that you’ll ever need. Having worked internationally across agile and disruptive teams from San Fransico to London, I can help you take what you are doing in digital to a whole next level.

Scroll to Top