One of the important factors which affects the time it takes to load your pages is the unnecessary redirects. For this reason, avoiding the landing page redirects is considered a good SEO practice by most websites and SEO analyzers. Having said that, it is still a technique that solves many problems and has several valid use cases.
HTTP redirect is the technique used by the websites to serve the same content under different URLs. This is a good technique to implement when any of your URLs gets obsolete and you want to steer the user to a meaningful page rather just an error page.
As mentioned, redirects are considered bad for the page load times, and in turn a bad SEO practice. Redirects effectively trigger another HTTP request to the server and thus add up the latency time of the entire rendering time. Reducing the number of redirects will not only speed up the page load times and also reduce the load on the server.
However, many times you need to implement landing page redirects for valid use cases. Other times, the platforms that you use like WordPress will provide it by default. For example, you are able to load the pages and posts in your WordPress site both with and without the trailing slash at the end of the URL. There are several other use cases where this is necessary:
Domain Redirection: It is considered good practice to maintain only one domain for your website and redirect other subdomains (such as non-www or bare bones domain) to the www sub-domain.
Location/Language Specific Sites: You might have location specific sites that redirects users to a different version depending on the geographical location of the user.
Device Specific Sites: You might also have different layouts based on the device such as mobile, tablet and desktop. In this case, you will be redirecting the user to a device specific version of the website.
Many SEO analysis softwares, including Google’s Page Speed detects these redirects and warns you about them. Due to the legitimate use cases described earlier, usually these warning happens only if it detects more than one redirect from an URL to the actual landing page.
For example, if you have three URIs: A, B and C all of which points to the same content then you might have to use some redirection from A and B to C. Make sure that A redirects to C and that B redirects to C. The worst practice is when A redirects to B and then B redirects to C. Do not create intermediate links that redirects in the above fashion.
One solution is to serve the same content from multiple URLs without any landing page redirects. For example, we can serve both the links http://lostsaloon.com and / without any redirection. This however causes some other issues with the SEO, as it can trigger duplicate content warnings to many search engine algorithms. So, as noted earlier it is necessary to use 301 redirects to tell users and search engines that it is “as designed” and not duplicate content.
Now that we know it is probably not worthwhile to completely eliminate the use of 301 redirects, we can work towards minimizing the use of such redirects. There are several different things you can do to achieve this.
Avoid Redirected URLs: Avoid the use of redirected URLs when linking content. If A redirects to C on the site, then always use C to reference the page content and eliminate all uses of the URL A within your website. This also applies to links outside of your domain that you have control over and can modify.
This holds true for domains as well. If you are serving content from the www sub-domain and redirecting the bare bones domain to www, then always use URLs with www when linking content from within your site and outside. Though it may not always be possible, encourage the use of the “final” domain and page URLs when links are created.
Avoid Chaining: Avoid chaining of redirections at all cost, as described in the example earlier. A and B links should redirect directly to C.
Avoid URL changes: Always make an effort to keep the existing URLs and resist changing of URLs, even during a website redesign. This is especially true for links that are indexed by search engines and externally linked which brings you both traffic and link juice.
Responsive Web Design: Use responsive web design when creating your website and layouts. This will eliminate the need to create a redirection for different devices, such as Smartphones and tablets.
You should use redirection as a method to catch bad and incorrect URLs that you do not have much control over. All links that can be changed should be changed manually to point to the correct URLs and do not use it as a lazy way to substitute for incorrect URLs.
Taking that extra effort to maintain the links correctly will pay off in the long run, making it much easier to maintain the website as well as in maintaining good SEO practices.