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301 redirects
how many is too many and how long

 1:56 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

We have a website that is about 10k pages. We have redesigned several times and have many redirects (about 2k). The redirects have been in place for more than 6 months.

Question - what is too many redirects? Also, I know the the big search sites will not like to have so many 404 pages at one time if we remover them all. However, do you think they see this as duplicate content even though there are so many redirects?

Opinions appreciated.



 4:59 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

2000 redirects is definitely too many. The browser would give up long before...

Whoops! you meant 2K total for a 10K site. I don't remember seeing anything, anywhere, addressing the total number of redirects across an entire site. The only issue is redirects of a single request. You can't go wrong with "two is too many".

Let's make that more humane: two redirects is a potential problem-- but sometimes necessary if the alternative is worse. Three is a problem. Four and you're in deep ##.

If you've removed a page entirely, put up a 410. Make sure you have a nice 410 page for humans. For some sites you can simply use the same physical page as for 404. For others-- especially commerce where a 410 means "we no longer carry this product"-- put more work into it.

Keep your redirects up to date.

That means: If you originally had
firstpage.html >> secondpage.html
and later you redesign again, resulting in
secondpage.html >> thirdpage.html
then replace the earlier redirect with
firstpage.html >> thirdpage.html
in a single step. Not just for search engines but for humans with old bookmarks. If they're on dialup or satellite, the request itself takes measurable time.

Browsers tend to cut out after around 30 redirects.* I have never personally met a site that redirected 30 times-- unless it was an infinite-redirect or similar error.

* I read an explanation of this recently. The browser doesn't keep track of who redirects where, or whether you're being redirected to a place you requested earlier, or if it's toggling between A and B. All it counts is how many redirects arose from the initial request.


 5:02 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

Most of the redirects have been updated. They are not redirects to more redirects. so yes, 20% of site is redirects to new pages.


 5:16 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

One more important question: Are your internal links up to date? My impression is that search engines absolutely hate sites whose own links* lead to redirects. A 404/410 is probably worse.

* Whether they have any opinions about sites with huge numbers of outdated external links is a whole nother question.


 6:54 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

I worked on a site that now redirects more than 80 000 duplicate content URLs to around 1400 new format URLs on a massive site redesign. Google took only a few days to crawl many of the old URLs, and several months to crawl all of the old URLs.

What's important is that there isn't a chain of redirects.


 2:12 pm on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you've redesigned and redirecting is the only option other than letting the pages 404 then I don't think you have much of a choice. However, you might want to keep an eye on your logs and/or write up a script to check that the redirects are working as expected and you're not getting any loops. If you're using RewriteRules it's not that hard to shoot yourself in the foot :p


 10:14 pm on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think for right now I am going to try deleting all the redirecting. My numbers are going down. My test is - will they bounce back higher when all those 404 pages are found and no longer indexed and bring more prominence to the new pages. Big risk big rewards I am "hoping" for here.


 11:09 pm on Oct 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Took a week to rebound but looking promising!


 1:09 am on Oct 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

@weddingm, are you saying that by removing redirects and letting old pages go 404, your site is rising up in SERPs / getting more traffic?

Is this only after 3 days since you removed redirects?

This is interesting because if your old URLs had external links, the link juice is now lost with 404.

But equally, if you have had bad links pointing to your pages, these would lose the effect as well, hence possible improvement - but from what I understand, you would only see this after Penguin is re-run.

This is why I am surprised by results you are seeing. Can you report back in a couple of weeks and tell us how it goes because 3 days since 301 removal are probably early days to make a conclusion.


 3:44 am on Oct 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

After reading your post, I did add in some redirects for the longest living pages just not to lose old links and make long standing customers unhappy. It is only week one so we shall see. I will post agin in a month or two.

Maybe I need to check inbound links and disavow some of those also!


 6:01 am on Oct 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

and make long standing customers unhappy

Yes. Do please come up with a solution that doesn't force you to choose between search engines and established customers :(

A page that has been intentionally deleted should return a 410. It's not only more truthful, it makes the Googlebot go away faster. (That Other Search Engine thinks 301s, 404s and 410s are all equally tasty and keeps coming back year after year no matter what you feed it.)


 10:08 am on Oct 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

and make long standing customers unhappy

A well crafted custom 404 page with a link to home page and other important pages of your site could do the trick.

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