While 301 redirects are required to redirect specific pages due to various reasons, the results can lead to no change in your rankings or in fact, even result in a dive in traffic. You need to ensure that your 301 redirects are implemented effectively to make your website rather than break it.
301 redirects can provide a quick solution to outdated content, ensure seamless and better user experience, and solve architecture issues, while ensuring that your ranking and link equity remain unchanged and even improve in the long run. However, Google’s new updates have been designed to serve brutal justice to improper redirect execution, especially if they include non-relevant redirects.
A 301 redirect is used to signal that your web page address has changed. This means that only your URL changes while your title tag, content, layout, and images remain the same. Google has indicated that approximately 85 percent of the original link equity is passed by a 301 redirect. This means that your new page can be just a little different than the old one to pass the 301 redirect successfully.
However, in case your 301 redirect leads to a totally non-relevant page then you can now be sure that your redirect will not pass maximum link equity. For instance, your old page about bathroom fittings can be redirected to a new page about faucets or showers, but redirecting it to a page about horses will cause Google to do much more than just frown on such a redirect.
Google’s patent that includes retrieval of information depending on historical data is designed to discount or ignore links when there is a noticeable change in anchor text that leads to any URL or in case the text of that page has been modified significantly over time. Google has also indicated that SEOs indulging in bulk 301 redirects that all lead to the home page could be treated as 404 or soft 404 redirects.
In other words, such a strategy will result in Google not indexing the old URLs while not passing any link equity. In case you indulge in mass 301 redirects to a home page that bears debatable relevance then your SEO efforts may just end up being in vain.
A better option would be to redirect your old pages to different URLs that are highly related to them rather than redirecting all of them to a single page. For non-relevant pages or pages where an improved page no longer exists or for pages that hardly receive any traffic, a 404 or 410 status code is a perfect match.
With Google’s Penguin punishing websites that have bad redirects with a vengeance, you need to realize that bad links need to be weeded out as soon as possible since when redirecting any domain all bad backlinks go along with it.
In case you have been trying to implement many old domains to a single new website or even redirect a single URL that has bad backlinks to a single new URL then you can expect to get punished. A better option would be to stop that redirect, especially if there are too many bad backlinks. For an individual URL, a better option would be to implement a 404 or 410 where the links do not get indexed.
You also need to weed out redirect loops as well as crawling errors that can harm rankings with an SEO audit of your website. Complicated redirects have the potential to reduce the relevance of your anchor text and link equity, and also result in indexing and crawling issues. You should restrict your redirect chain to a couple of steps.
It does seem that Google has also started treating 302 redirects that are anyway temporary, as soft 301 redirects. Google may have understood that webmasters are not perfect and that there is a lot of incorrect implementation of 302 redirects.
It does seem that search engines such as Google have evolved significantly in the recent past and have become stricter with strategies that are based on bad intentions while allowing a little margin for unintentional errors.
You must pay heed to your redirects since your rankings do depend significantly on its implementation.