Imagine that you’re at an outdoor concert and want to get a bottle of water. You ask someone who works at the venue where you can get something to drink, and they point you in the direction of a vending machine. You walk over to the machine, but when you get there, it’s out of order. You’re still thirsty, but now you’ve wasted your time and have to be redirected to another machine.
Redirects on a website are similar to this scenario. They automatically take visitors of one file to another file. Redirects are accomplished in many ways, but each way negatively impacts your page speed.
As more people use mobile, redirects have become more of an issue. If you have a mobile SEO solution, it’s important that you pay close attention to any redirects happening on your page. Mobile users are most affected by redirects because they are typically using less reliable networks than desktop users.
With so many people using mobile, does this mean that you shouldn’t be using redirects at all? Not necessarily. Redirects have a purpose, and there are many good reasons to use them. You just need to keep in mind that they also slow down your page speed and can interfere with performance, so you need to always be weighing the pros and cons.
For the purpose of ensuring that your website is optimized and speedy, let’s discuss how to minimize redirects. But first, how do you know if you have redirects?
Do I Have Redirects?
Most likely, yes. Here are the redirects you probably have.
One of the most common is a 301 redirect site wide from a non-www to a www version of a webpage. These redirects are most common because they have been recommended for SEO purposes. Supposedly, Google is able to recognize your site better by having this redirect.
301 and 302 Redirects
You may have other redirects as well, and you can check for them by using a redirect mapper tool like this one from Varvy.com that has the job of locating all 301 and 302 redirects. As long as you are doing some research, you should take the time to check all of your pages and see if redirects are slowing down your site speed. If they are, is there a way that you can improve them? Do you even need them?
Redirects from Other Files
Even if your HTML doesn’t have a lot of redirects, don’t forget that your website is loading more than just this. Your CSS files, images and external scripts may have redirects. Check to see which resources these pages are calling as they load. What you want is for all resources to be called in a way that doesn’t create a redirect. For instance, if your site is using www your CSS and other files should be using www.
Old Legacy Redirects
It’s also possible that you have old redirects on your site that are being missed. Check your .htaccess file or other configuration files to identify old legacy redirects. Usually these redirects were ones that were added for a certain page or section of your website that doesn’t exist anymore. A few of these redirects won’t cause many problems, but they can add up fast and be hard to find unless you look for them.
Google recommends that you eliminate redirects that are not absolutely necessary. For example, you don’t need to link to a page that has a redirect, nor do you need to require more than one redirect to get to any of your resources.
Below is a good system to follow when determining which redirects you want removed from your site.
Understand why the redirect exists
Check to see how the redirect affects other redirects
Remove the redirect if it’s not needed
If it is needed, update the redirect
Cleaning Up Redirects
Sometimes, it’s not removing redirects that you need to do but cleaning up a redirect chain instead. A common example is where you once redirected your site to go from the non-www version to the www version. Then at a later time, you redirected all of your traffic to your https version. A user may be typing in “redirectexample.com” to “www.redirectexample.com” and then being redirected to “https://www.redirectexample.com.” This happens all the time.
Fortunately, it’s an easy fix, you just have to know that you have this problem in the first place. Make sure that the old site wide redirect does not go from the non-www to www, but instead from non-www to https://www, or whatever the situation requires. The goal is to ensure that the redirects that do exist are up-to-date and relevant. Old 301 redirects that you made a long time ago may also be slowing down site speed, so you may need to clean these up.
Redirects aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so you don’t need to remove all of them from your website. The important thing to remember is that they can negatively affect both your site performance and speed, so you want to use them with caution.
Redirects are fine when they have a purpose, such as when they are used for SEO. However, if you find that your site has redirects that aren’t necessary, clean them up or remove them from your site. You’ll notice an improvement in speed, and this will make your users much happier.