While SEO is not my focus of expertise, it is an interesting field which impacts the work I do. I was surprised when fellow developer Dustyn Doyle pointed out to me that Google was indexing 301 redirects. Based on my research, I couldn’t find any of these 301 redirect links coming up in general searches; however, they are included when querying with the site parameter.
Negative Impact of Google Indexing 301 Redirects
Exposing Development URLs
I do a lot of work developing websites on temporary development urls (e.g. clientname.example.com). When completed, I generally make the site live at the canonical URL (clientname.com) and redirect the temporary development url (clientname.example.com) to the canonical URL with a 301 redirect.
clientname.com – live site
clientname.example.com – 301 redirect to clientname.com
Historically this system has worked well, allowing the client to see their live site even if they accidentally type in their development URL. It also acts as a safety net, in case a URL is not updated from the development URL to the canonical live site URL, a visitor is redirected to the correct page on the correct domain. Unfortunately now that Google is indexing these 301 redirects, a search like
site:example.com will reveal all of my development URLs.
Making Public URL Shortener 301 Redirects
Links from URL Shortener services like bit.ly or goo.gl are also being indexed. Again, you can view the results using the site search parameter. Check it out for yourself, https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Abit.ly. This probably isn’t a big deal when using a service like bit.ly, you gain some degree of anonymity with your URLs being mixed in with so many others.
There are some people and companies who have setup their own URL shortening services (yourls.org is a really cool open source project for doing just this). Hypothetically, I’ve setup a personal URL shortener at short.salferrarello.com. This would allow you to get an index of the URLs I’ve shortened by Googling
site:short.salferrarello.com and all of a sudden you can see the URL I shortened and shared with my wife of the spiderman boxers I want for my birthday. Not something, I’d planned to make available via a casual search online.
Google, Please Stop Indexing 301 Redirects
I’m sure there is some motivation behind indexing these 301 redirects that I don’t understand but as a man who has shortened links to silly things and redirects dev URLs to live URLs, I’d appreciate if it would please stop.