Are 301 redirects a Google ranking factor?

Using 301 redirects to tell search engines that a web page has been permanently moved to a new location is certainly good SEO practice.

But can 301 redirects affect your organic search ranking?

Read on to find out if there is a link between 301 redirects and improving Google rankings.

The claim: 301 redirects are a ranking factor

What are 301 redirects?

A 301 redirect is a server-side redirect for a URL that has permanently changed.

You would use a 301 redirect for the following scenarios:

  • You are switching from HTTP to HTTPS.
  • You are moving from an old domain to a new one.
  • You optimize URL slugs for existing posts and pages.
  • You switch to a new website platform and your pages will change from https://domain.com/page.html To https://domain.com/page/.

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Most of the discussion about 301 redirects focuses on transferring PageRank from the old URL to the new URL.

Or, if inbound links existed for the old URL, would they be automatically applied to the new URL?

The evidence against 301 redirects as a ranking factor

Not much is officially said about 301 redirects as a ranking factor.

In 2012, Matt Cutts, then head of Google’s Webspam team, said Google would track an unlimited number of page-to-page redirects.

Google will even make multiple hops if a page is redirected to another page and then redirected over and over again. He noted that the Googlebot may stop following redirects after four to five hops.

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In 2013, Cutts confirmed that a small percentage of PageRank is lost in 301 redirects. While some SEO pros cite a loss of 15%, Cutts is not saying there is a specific percentage.

In 2016, Google’s John Mueller answered the question of whether 301 redirects pass PageRank in an article on switching from HTTP to HTTPS.

He reassured the webmasters:

“Fluctuations can occur with any larger site change. We cannot give any guarantees, but our systems are generally good with HTTP -> HTTPS movements.

“… for 301 or 30.2 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS, no PageRank is lost.”

In 2019John further confirmed that HTTPS is a lightweight ranking factor when examining how SSL affects a website’s search rankings. Redirecting a website from HTTP to HTTPS is the closest way to link 301 redirects to ranking factors.

In 2020, Mueller discussed the possible SEO implications of chaining multiple 301 redirects. Redirects can negatively impact speed. Also note: Google will only crawl up to five “hops” in a redirect chain.

And in 2021, Google updated its guide to Google redirects and search in its Advanced SEO documentation. He confirmed that of all the types of redirects, 301 redirects are the most likely to be crawled correctly.

Specifically, Google noted:

“… a server-side redirect is most likely to be interpreted correctly by Google.”

Temporary HTTP and meta refreshes are the least likely to be processed correctly by Googlebots.

301 redirects as a ranking factor: our verdict

The only time you can get a boost from using 301 redirects is when you switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

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In the above case, it is HTTPS, and not 301 redirects, that has been confirmed as a lightweight ranking factor.

When used correctly, 301 redirects should have no impact on your website’s search rankings.

Are 301 redirects a Google ranking factor?


Featured Image: Paolo Bobita / Search Engine Journal

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