Why You Shouldn't 301 Redirect Everything

Feb 21, 2012

In my previous post on 404 pages, my advice as to when you should redirect the page and when you should just let it continue returning a 404 error (and eventually die) was simple and is summed up in the following sentence:

If your 404 page is indexing or getting links from other sites, redirect it; if not, just let it 404.

The above tip is sound for several reasons:

  • It’s more practical. Redirecting all pages that 404 can be time-consuming, especially if you are in the process of migrating a huge website to a new domain.
  • They’re just excess baggage. The URLs that you do decide to let 404 do not provide you any real value anymore, both in terms of traffic and link juice, which means that redirecting them is you forcing excess baggage on yourself.
  • Too many redirects can affect site performance. If you have too long a list of 301 redirects pointing to a page, it can actually lead to a slow down in your site, which we know affects not just user experience, but is also correlated to page rank.
  • So if you’re still feeling tempted to redirect all of your existing pages when you migrate your site (or for whatever reason), it might be time to rethink your plan. 301 redirects can indeed be useful, but they can also be a time-waster, or worse even lead to more harm than good.