What they are
Redirects occur when you the address for a page changes. For example, let’s say you have yoursite.com/overview and decide that this page would more accurately be called “about us”. So you change the URL in your CMS, save your changes, and the page can now be found at yoursite.com/about-us.
Now, if someone who has the old address /overview, unless a redirect is created they will get a 404 (Not Found) error when they try to access it. Redirects are implemented to help route traffic to the new page address, much as a Change of Address form does when you move to a new house or apartment.
Why it matters
As you can imagine, over time as site content changes and/or different versions of the site are launched, these redirects can build up and begin to impact the health of your site.
It’s one thing to tell search engines Page A is now called Page A-1, and another thing for your site’s servers to manage routing traffic once users arrive, based on the legacy names of your content. This kind of internal redirect can add significantly to server load and over time this can lead to substantial ‘technical debt’, or problems carried over from previous incarnations of the site. Additionally, internal redirection can also cause analytics problems resulting in unreliable or lost data for your business intelligence pipeline.
As multiple legacy addresses for a page build up and redirects are implemented to try and route traffic to the right, final destination, redirect chains result. Redirect chains are problematic for the same reasons as other internal redirects but contribute both more complexity and server load. They also increase the chance that any link value belonging to the original URL will not be transferred to the new destination.
Example redirect chain:
- https://www.yoursite.com/about-us/our-ceo/ [redirect -> page with different name ]
- https://www.yoursite.com/about-us/janesmith-ceo/ [redirect -> page without “/”]
What to do
- Replace internal redirects with links leading directly to the target content. Where numbers of redirects are small, this might mean manually replacing the links (we can identify exactly where they are on site). For larger sites or where the number of redirects is high, developers can make the changes in a more automated way.