What is a site redirect chain, how to find them and how to fix

Redirect Chains | The SEO Juice Killer (Updated 2020)

It was a lovely sunny day in old England, I was enjoying a coffee and cracking on with some personal development in SEO. Then I stumbled across ‘Redirect Chains and Loops.’

The happiness in my gleeful typing was sapped in seconds.

Had I been committing the sin of creating redirect chains and loops and what even are they?! Well my friends, I’m about to make you aware of a whole new problem in the world of search engine optimisation. Buckle up, this one is upsetting.

Table of Contents

What are Redirect Chains and Loops?

So you have your website, you’re not really thinking to far ahead and you name a category or a blog post with a poorly (if at all) keyword researched topic. The url handle gets even less thought.

Then….

You install Yoast, or Rank Math and you learn a little more about search. Now you go back and because Neil Patel mentioned updating content was better than spamming out new smaller pieces, you do some spring cleaning. You change the title, pull out a stop word or two in the URL, set a redirect and sit back.

Content, you’ve improved your odds in the Google game.

A year goes by and you realise you were targeting a key-phrase that should actually be hitting a parent category. So you merge a couple of pieces, update the title, url gets a tweak and another piece is deleted and redirected too.

You’ve now redirected a redirected redirect. Confused? Perhaps, but it may have taken you a moment to piece this together.

Guess what?

The same goes for Google. It finds a page and jumps and jumps again, if you have Shopify, make that 17 jumps. The helpful souls there, auto load a url the moment you type a title. You change the url and it wants a redirect done.

Understandably this can slow the time it takes to load a page. Which is not great for page performance. But that isn’t the worst part.

Welcome my friends to the land of Redirect Chains and Loops.

site redirect chain guide

Why are Site redirect chains bad?

Well besides the obvious impairment on page load, which is a ranking algorithm factor, it hits your link equity or page authority. How?

Too many redirects to a page can dilute transferred page authority

Backlinko.com 200 Google Algorithm Factors

What this means is if original page has 100% of power, it transfers less to redirected page and this compounded means even less to the next and so on. If within these redirects you have them set up as 302 (Temporary Redirections) site redirects, then even less.

A number of sites have mentioned the figure of 85% of link equity is transferred from point a to point b, and it is further mentioned in the Wikipedia Page Rank entry.

Looking at the effect this can have compounded is potentially frightening if you run a large legacy site and have done this many times.

  • Point A Redirect to Point B : 85% of original rank
  • Point B Redirect to Point C : 72% of original rank
  • Point C Redirect to Point D : 61% of initial
  • Point D Redirect to Point E : 52%!!

So you can see where alarm bells may have run that morning for me. I have categories and products that have seen this time and time again. Ultimately though there will always be some legacy issues and what is important to note is that page rank drop relates to that original source and not new authority you have built on this page.

What impact do redirect chains have on page load times

We all know that page load can have a negative or positive impact on your rankings, depending on which way things are going, but why exactly do site redirect chains have a negative effect?

This is simply explained when we look at where the redirect chains or redirections in general are stored on a site. They sit in a file called the .htaccess. This text document is used for a number of purposes but can essentially tell whether someone should or shouldn’t access certain files on your site and also what to redirect. The more lines of code that it has illustrating redirections, the more a server has to look through on page load.

This can affect the following things:

  • Time to start render
  • Time to first byte
  • Total load time

Having these problems due to an excessive number of file or pathway redirections and made worse by a ton of site redirect chain work, is not great for your organic marketing ambitions.

I’ve got Shopify – how do I fix it?

Unfortunately with Shopify, it isn’t possible to edit the htaccess or robots.txt files, but you can pull a list of all your site’s redirects and go back over the early ones to point them to the current URL. This is what can be done with a tool like Rank Math on WordPress, while Shopify has the function in the navigation section. To get to there, you simply click > online store > navigation > create redirects – and there you will see page after page of them. 

Hop into one, and edit it, if you see a redirect from the early days. Back to WordPress for this post though.

How do I find these chains?

So there are a number of ways to find a site redirect chain. Two that I use, we shall go through.

The first way is quite simple and with the aid of colourful images, we can show you how to find your redirect chains on WordPress.

If you want to feel a bit less left out Shopify users, I’ve got a killer guide on 4 Shopify Ranking Tricks.

How to Find a Site Redirect Chain on WordPress

Site Redirect Chain WordPress Fix

Firstly jump onto WordPress and if you don’t already have it, download Rank Math. This is a tool not dissimilar to Yoast, but also features the functionality of WP Schema app and the Redirections plug-in too. It reduces your plug-in bloat which is a great thing.

Activate the plug-in, run through the wizard and let it sync so it collects all your redirection history.

Finding Redirects in Rank Math

find site redirect chains on WordPress with Rank Math

In Rank Math click on the section I have highlighted and it will open up a page of all your redirections.

From here you can scroll through them and see if you have directed pages to a page that itself redirects to. This is a redirect chain and the easy solution here, is to simply now go to the first part of the chain and click edit.

Fixing Redirect Chains in WordPress

redirect chain fixes

Once you have got into the edit space, change the destination url to the current url of the page. This immediately cuts out all loops and links in the chain and ensures point a to point b does not go past ‘Go’ a few dozen times.

While there is still the obvious loss of page rank as has been mentioned, at least it is capped. Remembering that the new current page is an entity all by itself and in time it will likely exceed any lost value. It’s just the time it takes that is frustrating and the fact your competitors are armed with a little time ahead of you too.

That’s it in a nutshell on a simple level when it comes to finding and fixing a site redirect chain on WordPress. If you have a larger site, you will want a little more comprehensive tool to do the job though. This is where something like Ahrefs comes in.

How do I find internal redirects on Ahrefs?

Thankfully, Ahrefs have it built into their site audit – here’s how to find them:

  • Site Audit
  • From here on the left side-bar click ‘Redirects’ under the Report heading
  • Click the ‘Issues’ tab
  • From here you will see a list of your redirects issues on your site – click on redirect chains and view the affected urls

A tip to optimise your time is sort by those with either the highest internal links, traffic or page rank. This will ensure you invest your time most efficiently.

That’s it. Now you know how to find a redirect chain and how to fix them.

Need a little help?

You only know what you know right? If you don’t understand SEO fully, you will often leave it with a website designer. You need a ‘Search Expert’ not a designer.

If that’s you business – then we need to talk 

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