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I want to allow a client to have a flexible way to configure the navigation menu for his WordPress website.

To that end, I have created a parent page called "Navigation", which has child pages for each page to be displayed in the navigation menu.

Those pages then get 301 redirected to the actual page that should be served.

This means the client can create pages freely, and then set up redirects for them as and when needed.

This is a really easy way for him to manage his main menu and it works well.

From an SEO point of view, is this okay? Will the pages be indexed fine?

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3 Answers

You only want to use redirects when there's no other option. Secondly, there's several bad issues you might run into like the keywords in the URL and XML sitemap issues by doing it this way.

Personally, I would either use the menu manager to control the navigation, or modify the theme files to display the proper pages (potentially as their added as well) rather than using redirects.

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Would you mind describing those "several bad issues" in more detail? –  Ilmari Karonen Jun 30 '12 at 13:39
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First, there's already way to do what he's asking within WordPress without using 301 redirects. He can use the menu settings to disable pages being automatically added to the navigation, then manually add them as need be. Secondly, many plugins assume the accuracy of the menu. So putting 301 redirects in there may cause them to break. Plus, this may break in future WP updates as it's not a best practice (and even best practices sometimes change and break.) As far as SEO goes, having one link for one page is best. 301's are fine when pages move. The video you linked to is a year 1+ old..[limit] –  user1337 Jul 2 '12 at 15:42
    
OK, fair enough. I'm not that familiar with WordPress, so I wasn't aware that there might be some WordPress-specific reasons to avoid 301 redirects. –  Ilmari Karonen Jul 2 '12 at 15:52
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Pages will probably get indexed. Building a layer of indirection through redirects into your website is probably not the way to go -- i would think that Search Engines would tend to trust regular old HTML links much more than a 301'd page -- seems like 301's could mask some attempt to show regular users one thing and serach engine spiders another thing (cloaking).

Couldn't you allow your client to just add new pages as a child pages of a particular page (maybe your navigation page), and then just use get_pages() with the child_of parameter set to your navigation page, and then you use those results to automatically populate your navigation dropdown.

I myself would never create deliberate 301's on my site if SEO was of any concern.

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-1 for FUD. There are no cloaking issues with 301 redirects that wouldn't exist also for "regular old HTML links", and I've never heard of any search engine that would consider them as less trustworthy than normal links. –  Ilmari Karonen Jun 30 '12 at 13:42
    
While there are no current cloaking issues with using 301 redirects in this case, especially with the panda update Google is showing us they want us to follow best practices and even if there's a legitimate reason to vary from them, when they catch nefarious uses of such techniques, they shut them down. –  user1337 Jul 2 '12 at 15:38
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This is a perfectly sensible thing to do, and your pages will be indexed just fine. For pretty much all practical purposes, search engines treat links to a 301-redirected URL just as if the link had pointed directly to the target URL.

Google's PageRank algorithm does shave off a tiny fraction of the rank flowing through redirected links; the amount is apparently comparable to the fraction shaved off on every step in a normal chain of links. In practice, this is not something you should worry about — that time is much better spent making your site's link structure generally easy to navigate, or promoting your site through external links.

Another, more serious, issue is with chains of redirects, where you have page A redirecting to B, B to C, C to D, and so on. Not only does that kind of redirect chaining increase the time it takes for a browser to follow that link, but if the chain is very long, then at some point both search engines and browsers will give up and stop following it. For most browsers, it'll typically takes about a 100 or so hops before they give up, but in this video Matt Cutts seems to be implying that the threshold for Googlebot may be much lower, perhaps as low as five hops.

In any case, 301 redirects are everywhere. Ever visit a directory on your site and have the trailing slash automatically appended to the URL? That's a 301 redirect. Follow a short link to a Stack Exchange question or to a blog post? 301 redirect. URL shorteners? Yeah, they use 301 redirects too. You just don't notice them, because your browser follows them automatically and all but invisibly. If search engines didn't do the same, they wouldn't be very good at crawling the web.

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As pointed out above, there are ways of providing desired functionality without redirects. Redirect damping factor reputed to be .85, so shaving more than "tiny" fraction. Also unnecessarily increases page load time, server load, etc. –  GDav Sep 24 '12 at 16:27
    
@GDav: That .85 would be a pretty huge drop, if true. Any sources for that? –  Ilmari Karonen Sep 24 '12 at 16:57
    
.85 is the damping factor cited in the original PageRank formula, and a Google engineer has confirmed there is a decay of PR via redirect, so we could reasonably infer that the same factor is used for 301s. Obv. that's speculative, but not outlandishly so. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank#Damping_factor, seroundtable.com/archives/021832.html –  GDav Sep 24 '12 at 17:20
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