Last night I wrote about how you can get your domain name listed on Google’s HSTS Preload List, which is used with Google Chrome. I do recommend that you get your domain name on this list if you’ve moved your website to HTTPs already. At this point that should be everyone–if you are reading this and haven’t moved your website to HTTPs yet, what are you waiting for?
Well, after posting about Google’s HSTS preload list website, Casey Markee kindly reminded me that the site requires redirect chains. Redirect chains are, in fact, not at all SEO friendly and not an SEO best practice. So why would Google’s tool require that redirect chains be present in order to be approved to submit your domain name to the list? Well, I don’t know.
What is a Redirect Chain
What exactly is a redirect chain? It’s pretty simple. Here’s an example: when someone tries to go to http://billhartzer.com, it redirects to http://www.billhartzer.com, that then redirects again to https://www.billhartzer.com, the main URL for the site. That’s a redirect chain. It’s multiple redirects like this:
http:// redirects to http://www redirects to https://www
That’s not very search engine friendly, or SEO friendly. The SEO best practice is to redirect from http:// to https://www which is the final destination. You shouldn’t be redirecting from one version to another version and then to another version of your site.
Even Google themselves (at least their webmaster reps) have said that multiple redirects can cause issues, and they don’t recommend it.
But in this case, we have a Google-owned tool, being promoted to website owners to submit their sites. Their tool won’t allow a domain to be submitted and accepted unless it’s not set up according to best practices?
Here’s an example of one of my domain names that is NOT accepted by the HSTS Preload site. I know the site has some issues, so I’m not going to go into that part. I will eventually fix it, but it’s more of a test-bed for these sorts of things: hartzer.net.
If you look at the redirects and the way they’re set up for billhartzer.com (look at http://billhartzer.com) and you’ll see multiple redirects in place until it gets to https://www subdomain. This is the only way that Google’s HSTS preload website would allow for me to submit the site there.
Update:In a few tweets, Matt Cutts (former Google engineer) mentioned to me that once your domain name/site is on the preload list, there essentially won’t be any redirects. Google Chrome, for example, will always go directly to the HTTPs version of your site, bypassing any HTTP requests to your site. This is actually ideal, so you don’t really have to worry about the redirect chains anymore if your site is listed on the HSTS preload list.