As a general rule 301 redirects are not bad for SEO as they no longer cause you to lose PageRank.
However, redirect chains can negatively impact SEO performance as they may make it harder to index certain pages, they can also negatively impact site speed and time to first byte (TTFB) so it is best practice to fix redirects so that they point to the final destination URL.
Reasons 301 Redirects Are No Big Deal
Having a site full of 301 redirects shouldn’t cause any ranking issues, here are a few reasons why:
1. Redirects Don’t Cause You To Lose PageRank
In the past (post-2016) if you redirected a page not all of the link authority (PageRank) would transfer over to the new URL.
This means that the page would potentially not rank as well as it did prior to the redirect.
30x redirects don’t lose PageRank anymore.— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (@methode) July 26, 2016
As of July 2016, this is no longer the case, if you redirect a URL the full link authority of the page will carry over.
2. Redirects Make It Quick & Easy To Move A Page
301 redirects are a quick and easy way for search engines to see that a page has moved and exactly where it has moved to.
They make the internet work better, any site that has been around for while is likely to have plenty of redirects on it and there is no reason why this would cause problems when it comes to rankings, it is just a natural part of a site’s growth cycle.
3 Reasons 301 Redirects Can Be Bad News
While as a general rule you don’t need to worry too much about 301 redirects there are some cases where you should be wary of them:
1. Redirect Chains Make Indexing Harder
A redirect chain is when a 301 redirects to another 301 which redirects to another and on and on.
While a single redirect or even a couple of redirects in a chain is unlikely to cause any issue if you get to the point where users and Google bot is being redirected 4,5 or more times before reaching the final destination this can cause issues.
Google bot will not follow redirect chains indefinitely.
If they encounter 5+ redirects the bot is likely to give up rather than waste resources following a seemingly endless chain.
This means that the URL on the end of the redirect chain will be harder to find and less likely to get indexed, meaning it may not appear in Google.
2. Redirects Can Slow Your Site Down
Redirects can negatively impact site speed, particularly if you have a lot of them or have long redirect chains.
For most smaller sites a few redirects will not cause any meaningful site speed issues, however for large sites where backlogs of 301 redirects can build up into the ten of thousands this can significantly impair overall site speed.
Site speed is an SEO ranking factor however it only has a fairly small impact, as confirmed by Gary Illyes of Google:
Ranking wise it’s a teeny tiny factor, very similar to https ranking boost. That particular one is not surprising. You do that primarily to enable users to convert.— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (@methode) April 28, 2020
So while you shouldn’t stress too much about site speed it is worth keeping on top of.
One way of doing this is to ensure that you link directly to a final destination URL rather than sending users and bots via redirects.
Doing this will also help reduce your site’s Time To First Byte (TTFB) core web vitals score.
3. Abusing Redirects Can Hurt Page Rankings
Redirects are often used to boost the rankings of a page. For example suppose you have a page on ‘SEO Video Audits‘ which ranks on page 2 of Google, and another page on ‘Link Building’ which ranks on page 8 and brings in no traffic at all, it can be tempting to redirect the link building article to the video audits article to help boost that page’s rankings.
However, this is a bad idea unless the two pages are very closely related.
In this case the redirect would likely negatively impact the Video Audit page’s rankings as the redirected article is not relevant enough.
It is also common practice in the world of black hat SEO to buy a domain with a lot of links pointing to it and then redirect the domain to a key site you want to rank.
Again this is dangerous because, unless the redirected domain is a close topical match, the end result is likely to negatively impact rankings.
Ideally you should only use 301 redirects on your site in the following cases:
- Moving your site to a new domain name.
- Moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
- When optimizing the URLs of posts, pages & products.