How to Prevent Redirect Chains from Destroying Your SEO

How to Prevent Redirect Chains from Destroying Your SEO

Have a website? Then you’ve likely heard about search engine optimization (SEO) — the process of making your site easier to find, crawl, and rank for search engines.

The better your SEO, the higher your website ends up on search engine ranking pages (SERPs) — as a result, the greater the chance of your site being noticed by potential customers.

And with 68% of all website traffic coming from organic and paid searches — rather than through social media shares and other marketing channels — the right SEO strategy is critical.

Free Guide: How to Run a Technical SEO Audit

Many SEO techniques are straightforward: Don’t keyword stuff. Keep your content relevant. Improve your website’s user experience (UX) by cutting complexity and boosting speed. But other metrics also matter.

Case in point? Redirect chains. These interconnected Internet issues cause problems for search engine spiders, frustration for users, and potential problems for your page ranking.

But what exactly is a redirect chain? Why is it potentially problematic? And how do you find and remove these unintentional website course corrections? Here’s what you need to know.

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What is a redirect chain?

A redirect chain occurs when there’s more than one redirect between the initial link users click on and the eventual destination page.

There are two common types of redirects: 301 and 302.

301 redirects happen when the destination page permanently links to a new URL and 302 redirects point to temporary pages while new content is created or websites are built. From an SEO perspective, both are treated the same.

Consider a backlink from a reputable site that leads to a page on your site, which we’ll call URL A. If users click on the link and are taken directly to URL A, it’s considered to be a single 301 redirect. Perfect.

But what happens if the content on URL A needs a refresh? You update the content with URL B, then set URL A to redirect users to the new page. This causes a redirect chain — your backlink leads to URL A which redirects to URL B. Add new pages and the chain gets longer and longer, and longer…

Two Reasons for Redirects

In most cases, redirect chains are unintentional, and they typically happen for one of two reasons:

1. Content Updates

Since changing backlinks on other sides isn’t easy — you’d need to get in contact with the site owner, ask them to amend the link, and hope they have the time to do so — it’s often quicker to simply redirect the initial backlink to a new URL. As websites grow and content changes, however, the number of steps between the initial click and eventual destination can increase dramatically.

2. URL Specifics

Redirect chains also occur when businesses rapidly scale up their website and small issues with URL specifics turn into larger redirect problems. For instance, consider the URL:

http://www.yoursite.com/products

Since it lacks the https now expected for secure website browsing, you update the URL to:

https://www.yoursite.com/products

This creates a redirect, but there’s another issue — no trailing slash after “products”. So what happens? You amend the URL again:

https://www.yoursite.com/products/

The result? You’ve gone from one to three redirects with only minor changes. Combined with new content generation and applied to your site at scale, it’s easy to see how redirects can quickly get out of hand.

The Negative SEO Impact of Redirect Chains

What’s the big problem with redirect chains, anyway? Since the links point users and search engine crawlers in the right direction, what does it matter if it takes a few extra steps?

As is turns out, large redirect chains can significantly impact your spot in SERPs for three reasons:

1. Link Juice Loss

The “boost” your site gets from reputable backlinks is often called “link juice” — the more juice you get, the better for your search rankings.

With just one redirect from a backlink to your site, you get 100% of the juice. Add another 301 redirect and you’re getting (on average) about 85% of the link juice. Add another and you get 85% of 85%, or just over 72%. The more links, the less juice.

2. Reduced Site Performance

It makes sense: The longer the chain, the more time it takes your destination page to load as browsers work their way through link after link. And with site performance now a critical factor in boosting SEO, more redirects mean lower rankings for your page.

3. Crawling Concerns

Search engine bots will only crawl so much before giving up. Called their “crawl budget”, most smaller websites don’t need to worry about search spiders spending their entire budget before reaching the end of the site — unless redirects start to ramp up.

The bigger and more numerous your redirect chains, the longer it takes for search engines to reach the end. Eventually, they’ll just stop looking.

Also worth mentioning are redirect loops. Here, initial links lead to URL A, then URL B and the URL C, and then back to URL A — causing a loop. Eventually, browsers stop redirecting and users end up with no content. Not surprisingly, your SEO suffers.

How to Find Redirect Chains

While you could go through your site manually and evaluate every page, every link, and every redirect, this is both time and resource-intensive — especially if you’re in the middle of site expansion or rolling out a new content strategy.

Best bet? Use online redirect checker tools to determine where your links are working as intended and where they create potentially problematic chains. Some popular solutions include:

1. Redirect-checker.org

Simply type in your http:// or https:// URL to discover any 301 or 302 redirects for a specific page. This free tool is great if you’re only worried about specific URLs but isn’t ideal for checking your entire site.

2. Sitebulb

Sitebulb delivers a host of reports that evaluate how crawl-friendly your site is, where redirect issues exist, and how links are distributed across your site. Sitebulb offers a 14-day free trial followed by a monthly subscription model.

3. Screaming Frog

The SEO Spider from Screaming Frog lets you find broken links, audit link redirects, and discover duplicate content. SEO Spider comes in both free and paid versions — the biggest difference is that the free version will only crawl 500 URLs while the paid version offers unlimited redirect reports.

4. DeepCrawl

DeepCrawl bills itself as the “world’s best website crawler” and offers three plans: Light, Light Plus, and Enterprise. The Light plan is designed for one project and 10,000 URLs per month, while Light Plus offers 40,000 URLs, and Enterprise comes with unlimited redirect reconnaissance.

How to Remove a Redirect Chain

Once you’ve found redirect chains, removing them is straightforward — simply change the redirect link of the first destination page to the final URL rather than pointing it toward another redirect.

In practice, this means changing the redirect of URL A, in our example above, to URL C rather than URL B — in turn, skipping the middle step and ensuring your site doesn’t lose any link juice or SEO ranking. If URL B is still backlinked by other sites, you can leave its redirect to URL C intact. If it only exists as a bridge between the older URL A and the newer URL C, it’s worth removing redirects entirely and deleting or archiving the page.

Remember — every 301 redirect after the initial jump costs your site approximately 15% of potential link juice. Fill your SERP cup by cutting down redirects wherever possible.

How to Prevent Redirect Chains

To prevent redirect chains from building up over time, it’s worth regularly checking your site with redirect tools like those mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of new URLs as they’re created — either by using a shared spreadsheet or by leveraging automated tools for this purpose — to help ensure that new URLs are connected to the first 301 redirect rather than those further down the chain.

Breaking Bad (Chains)

Although it’s not possible to entirely avoid redirect chains from backlinks and other dofollow sources, SEO starts to suffer the longer these chains become. Best bet? Use robust redirect tools to find long-tail chains, break them into smaller pieces wherever possible, and develop URL management frameworks to reduce redirect risks.

seo audit

How to Monetize Your Website Without Destroying Your User Experience

How to Monetize Your Website Without Destroying Your User Experience

If you have a website that publishes content, you know there’s one thing that’s super important… monetizing your traffic.

You’ve poured tons of time and effort into creating a great site, and there’s nothing better than turning all that hard work into cash.

But monetizing your site isn’t as easy as it might seem at first. To get the most out of it, you’ll need to utilize some solid strategies.

Strategies for Monetizing Traffic to Your Website

There are a lot of ways to monetize your website. I’ll explain a few of the most common ones below. But first, let’s talk about traffic:

The More Traffic You Have, the Easier It Will Be to Monetize Your Site.

Some of the common ways to monetize a website (like running ads) won’t necessarily be worth it until you have a certain amount of traffic.

There are still ways you can monetize a website that doesn’t get much traffic. For example, you could use the audience you already have to launch a business (like coaching or freelance writing) based around your site. You could also sell products to your existing audience.

However, with more site visitors, you’ll have more options.

How do you build traffic to your website? There are tons of strategies you can use. Write an ebook, hold a webinar, grow your email list, improve your SEO…  basically anything to help people find you and get them interested in your content.

Monetizing Your Site

Once you’ve built up an audience for your website, here are just a few of the techniques you can use to monetize your traffic.

Paid Memberships or Paywalls

The simplest way to monetize your website is asking people to pay for your content.

Because there’s so much free stuff on the internet, people are hesitant to pay for content. However, if your brand is strong enough, your audience might be willing to pay. Many major news publishers offer only a few free articles and keep the rest of their websites behind a paywall. Here’s what that looks like at the Harvard Business Review:

For bloggers and marketers, a more common approach is a tiered membership system, where most of the content on the website is free, but some is members-only.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing means using affiliate links to refer people to other websites. When people buy products from those sites, you’ll get a cut of the sale.

If you’re using affiliate links on your site, you should let people know that. Try to only recommend products you think your audience will like.

There are tons of companies out there with affiliate programs. Amazon has one of the most popular ones.

Sponsored Posts

A third way to monetize traffic is by doing sponsored posts for brands. Companies might contact you asking you to write a post promoting them, with a link to their site. This is sometimes called native advertising.

Here’s an example of a sponsored post from HR Magazine:

Display Ads

Finally, one of the most common ways to monetize your website is by using display ads.

Display ads are extremely popular and show up on almost every website in the header, sidebars, and other places. In fact, the Google Display Network reaches 90% of internet users around the world. By using display ads, you can “rent out” space on your site to advertisers.

Here’s an example of what display ads look like from Speedtest.net:

Display ads are an easy way to monetize traffic. But to get the most out of them, you have to optimize them.

To do this, you have to understand how display advertising works, and which types of ads work best. Ads can be annoying to users if you implement them wrong.

Read on to learn about how to earn more from display ads without destroying your user experience.

What Type of Ads Should I Use to Bring in Revenue?

First, let’s talk about the types of display ads that are out there. There are a lot of different formats for ads. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has guidelines for ad sizes and specifications.

Here are a few kinds of display ads you might see on publisher websites:

Static Ads vs. Animated Ads

Static ads are the simplest and most traditional kind of display ads. A static ad is a picture, and that’s it.

An animated display ad is usually made up of 2-3 static images, which display one after the other.

These types of ads are sometimes called banner ads, and they come in a variety of different formats. You may have heard terms like “leaderboard”, “skyscraper”, “square”, “full banner”, or “half-page”: these are all different sizes for display ads.

Google has a guide showing some of the most common ad sizes (in pixels) for both mobile and desktop.

Video Ads

Another type of display ad is a video ad.

You may think of a video ad as something that shows up on YouTube, but Google video ads also appear on publisher websites if they are Google video partners.

Video ads may be embedded within content or displayed on the side of the page.

Lightbox Ads

Lightbox ads respond when users engage with them. When people tap or hover over the ad, it expands or displays a video. Advertisers only pay when people engage with their ads.

Responsive Display Ads

Responsive display ads adjust their appearance to fit different ad spaces.

Advertisers can upload a bunch of assets (videos, images, logos, or headlines), and the ad network automatically chooses a combination of these to fit different ad slots.

Retargeted Ads

Ever looked at a website, and then seen ads for that same website a few hours later as you were browsing online?

You can thank retargeting (also known as remarketing) for that.

Retargeting lets advertisers show their ads to people who have already interacted with their website in some way, or who have signed up for their email list.

Native Ads

The term native ad means an ad that blends into the content surrounding it, making users more likely to click.

While you may think of a native ad as a sponsored post or advertorial, display ads may also be called native ads when they are optimized to match the surrounding content.

Here’s a screenshot (from The Independent) of what a native ad looks like. It looks like an article, but note the “sponsored” label at the bottom:

Which Type of Ads Should I Run?

As you can see, there are a lot of different types of ads to choose from. Which kinds should you run on your website?

As a publisher, it’s in your best interest to run ads in a way that will make them perform well. You want to get people clicking, so you can earn those advertising dollars.

But you also don’t want to ruin your user experience. Running too many invasive ads can have a bad impact on your site: it can slow down your page loading speed, potentially tank your SEO, and send your readers running for the hills.

So how can you know which ads will work best? Basically, you should be testing your ads, and you need to be using the right tools.

Read on for more tips on how to get the best possible ad experience for your website.

Tips for Optimizing Your Website’s Ad Experience

To effectively monetize traffic, you’ll want to improve the ad experience that users have on your website.

Here are a few different ways you can do that:

Optimize for Web and Mobile

Users are going to be accessing your site from different devices. The ad experience will be different on web and mobile.

Ideally, you’ll want to optimize the ad experience for visitors based on the device they’re using.

Optimize Ad Display

The way that ads are displayed on your site can affect profitability. This includes their size, their location on the page, the type of ad, and whether other ads are present.

Did you know that ads can actually dilute the effectiveness of other ads? If there are too many ads on a single page, each one may be less effective. Don’t assume that just adding more ads will lead to higher revenue.

Serve Users a Unique and Custom Ad Experience

Advertisers treat every visitor differently, serving them different ads depending on their preferences.

Yet most publishers treat every user the same.

Customizing your ad experience depending on the user could lead you to get better results. You can do this with the help of automated website monetization software (more on that below).

Importance of A/B Testing Your Ads for a Seamless User Experience

When optimizing your ad experience, A/B testing has its benefits, but it may actually decrease ad rates.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like: running a test where you compare two versions of something side by side (Version A against Version B), to see which one gets better results.

A/B testing will give you some hard evidence about which types of ads you should use. However, it’s not going to appease everyone. The limitations with A/B testing means that you’ll never be able to satisfy the B-side visitors

How Do I Run an A/B Test?

To run an A/B test, you should compare one variable that you can control as a publisher (for example, ad type or content position) with one that you can’t control (such as traffic source).

This will allow you to see which ad content performs better across traffic sources, devices, times of day, etc.

Which Ad Elements Should I Test?

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of variables you can test for when running your A/B tests. Some of these you can control, while others you can’t.

Ad Placement

One important variable to test for is ad placement. This has to do with where your ad is located on the page… is it at the top, at the bottom, in the sidebar, or within the content? Ad placement affects your ad’s visibility to users.

Image Size

Another variable is image size. Obviously, larger ads will be more visible on the page. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform better. Remember, it’s all about the user experience.

Traffic Source

Which source of traffic is generating the most ad clicks? Optimizing for the source can help you monetize your traffic better, by understanding which traffic is most valuable to you. Maybe it would be worth it to invest more in certain paid traffic sources, or maybe you need to go all-in on your SEO.

Ad Color

This one is pretty self-explanatory… what color are your ads? Should you be aiming to make them blend in, or stand out?

Color psychology can have an impact on conversion rate, so this is actually a more important factor than you might think.

Density

How densely packed are your ads on the page? We already discussed how ads can dilute each other, so ad density can be a key factor to look into.

Location Targeting

Are you making use of location targeting to show users ads that are relevant for their local region?

Ad Network

A final variable you can optimize for is ad network. Different ad networks may be paying you less or more for certain ads.

Tools for Testing Ads

There are a lot of different tools you can use for testing ads. I’ll quickly run through some of the most popular ones, and then I’ll let you know about my secret weapon that I use for monetizing traffic.

Google Optimize

If you want a simple tool for running A/B tests, you can use Google Optimize.

The upside is that Google Optimize is free. The downside is that you’ll have to do everything manually, which takes forever.

Basically, you can go into Google Optimize and connect it with your Google Analytics account. You’ll then need to enter the information for each experiment you want to run.

Optimizely

There are also some paid ad optimization platforms you can use. Optimizely is one example, which is fairly popular in the industry.

However, I’m not a big fan of Optimizely, because I don’t find it super intuitive or easy to use.  The free plugin Ad Inserter is an alternative to Optimizely that many marketers like using.

Ezoic

Finally, I want to tell you about my secret weapon: a tool called Ezoic. Ezoic uses multivariate testing to allow the machines to personalize the ad placements/density automatically.

Ezoic is awesome, because it actually allows you to customize your ad experience to what your user wants. This can help you more effectively monetize traffic.

You can use Ezoic to run automated ad tests.

The software uses AI and machine learning to help you optimize your ads, so it makes decisions based on billions of pieces of data. These decisions are more effective than what you could do on your own.

Automating your testing saves tons of time: you can test thousands of variables in minutes. If you tried to do it manually, it could take months.

Ezoic has helped some websites get a 93% increase in total monthly revenue, and an 87% increase in average revenue per session. To me, those are pretty amazing results.

But not only is Ezoic great for revenue, it also helps you optimize your user experience for every single visitor. If your display ads are taking away from user experience, Ezoic will take the ad off the page.

Because of the improved user experience that Ezoic offers, users are likely to spend more time on your site. Companies have actually seen great results with this already.

Simplypsychology.org saw an 84% increased time-on-site after starting with the Ezoic platform.

And Askdavetaylor.com had a 49% increase in pageviews.

You don’t have to just use Ezoic with Adsense. You can use it with any existing ad platforms and get access to thousands of demand partners, helping you make more money faster.

Conclusion

If you’re a publisher, running display ads on your website is a great way to monetize traffic.

But there are tons of different types of ads, and lots of different variables to think about when running them. If you actually want to make money from display ads, you’ll want to make sure they’re optimized for the best possible performance.

Make sure you’re running the right tests, so you can get the most out of your ads.

What did you think about my tips for monetizing your traffic? Have you tried any of the tools I mentioned? Let us know in the comments.