In 2021, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that redirect signals were definitely consolidating to the new location after a year.
This means that in theory, signals to the original URL are permanently forwarded to the new one after one year.
If the redirect is removed and the original page is restored, the original page must create new signals on its own.
Even if the old links still point to the original page, they count for the page that was the target of the redirect for over a year.
Note that one year is measured from when Google crawls it.
This is different from what SEOs think. Usually it is assumed that if the redirect is no longer in place, the signals are lost. It is also understood that if the original page is restored, the signals will reconstitute for that page. Have we been wrong all this time? Let’s find out.
I removed redirects to these pages on January 30, 2023:
These messages were chosen because they had older messages redirected to them. These older posts were about the same topics and had enough links and referring domains that I think removing them would have a visible impact.
You can see the sharp drop in referring domains after doing this:
What I don’t see is much of a drop in traffic to these posts. One has actually increased traffic, one is down, and two are relatively stable.
The keyword search volume post is the one that was down. The downfall that appears to have happened around the same time as the removal of redirects actually happened a few days before the removal. You can see that the drop already happened on January 24, but I only removed the redirects on January 30.
Traffic to the post decreased during the test, so I can’t rule out that removing redirects will harm this post.
I’m not willing to say conclusively that permanent redirects pass the value even after a year, but what Gary said seems largely true.
It’s not that I don’t believe Gary, but it’s drastically different from how SEOs thought redirects were consolidated. It seems crazy that signals can be consolidated in a different place than where a link is pointing.
It’s definitely not something I want to take lightly. I’m already running another test, I’ve planned a bigger test if that happens, and I’ll probably do a study after that. Even if it’s not conclusive, it probably will be true, and that’s why I want to share this now.
If the way we understand redirect consolidation is wrong, it has massive implications for the SEO industry.
Redirection of recommendations
One of the tactics I always use with a new client is to redirect 404 pages that have links pointing to them. I think in most of these cases the pages had never been redirected.
If the redirects are truly permanent after a year, I’ll have to segment those that have been redirected for more than a year from those that haven’t. There could still be value to be had with this tactic, but with less work required.
It’s a big. The value of a domain can change a lot depending on the links pointing to it.
Many SEOs buy domains that already have links from sites in the same niche when they plan to launch a new website or redirect it to their current site. They hope these old links will help them rank better.
Imagine if that value wasn’t actually there anymore. If the domain has been redirected for a year or more and the value has permanently moved to a different domain, then that domain could be worth much less.
There is also a massive impact on various tools like Ahrefs if the redirects definitely pass the value. We would need to change the way we display links and domains to these sites when redirects are involved.
I’m sure we’ll also get a lot of questions when the redirects have been removed, for example: “Why are you still showing those links to this page when the other page is no longer redirecting?” It’s a weird concept, isn’t it? But if that’s how it works, that’s what we need to do.
I haven’t seen any changes in the SEO industry or SEO recommendations since Gary’s tweet. I don’t know if it’s because few people saw it or followed the fractured conversation, or we collectively don’t want to believe that the redirects are consolidating differently than we think.
I still don’t think many SEOs believe me when I say temporary redirects consolidate to the original URL, but they do.
Like I said, I’m not ready to call this one just yet. At the very least, a lot more testing needs to be run before I’m ready to conclude that permanent redirects are permanently passing signals.
If you have any questions send me a message on Twitter.