Redirects do not inherently hurt SEO, but incorrectly implemented or unnecessary redirects can. When implemented well, redirects can help preserve authority and traffic during site changes. Poorly implemented redirects can lead to user experience issues or other technical hurdles.
When a URL on your domain changes, it’s highly recommended you implement a 301 redirect to the new URL immediately. There are several reasons as to why this is important:
- If the page whose URL you’re changing is ranking, Google may serve up the 404 page in the short term, hampering user experience (and eventually resulting in lost rankings).
- Eventually, Google will see a URL change as completely removed content, and remove it from its index. Unless you implement a redirect, you will lose all rankings and traffic the old URL had.
- Users will also get sent to a 404 page if there are internal links on your site pointing to the old URL. Likewise, authority passing through the site via those internal links will also be lost.
- If a user has shared the old URL in a private message or saved it in their browser bookmark, they will now be sent to a broken 404 page.
- If you have backlinks pointing to that page, removing the URL without implementing redirects will cause the domain to lose that authority.
Even if you’re completely removing content, it’s still important to implement redirects to avoid any loss in authority or traffic that the old content may have provided. In the case of removed content, it’s best to send users to the most similar or contextually relevant page in relation to the content that was removed. If none of these are applicable, then simply redirect the old URL to the homepage.
Contact Fire&Spark to discuss best practices for changing or removing content.