I have a Django website with activated translation middleware for several languages.

If a user tries to open


this happens:

  1. the middleware detects the user language (from cookie, from browser, then fallback) and redirect to i.e.

  2. the middleware detects that this page does not exist and sends a 404

For these non-existing pages I have first a 301 and then a 404. Does this redirect hurt my SEO ranking?

  • 1
    Does this redirect hurt my SEO ranking? Rank is a page by page thing. If your 301 results in a 404, then there is nothing to rank. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


Language redirects and dynamic language determination are bad for SEO in general. For SEO, language should be chosen solely based on the URL. You should not redirect based on browser language settings (accept-language header) or IP address geo location. Cookie redirects are fine for users that have affirmatively stated their language preference.

Your English pages (like example.com/en/abc) should link directly to other English pages (like example.com/en/def). You should never link to URLs that would require a redirect to get to the appropriate language.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Search engine crawlers don't send cookies
  • Search engine crawlers don't send accept-language headers
  • Search engine crawlers crawl sites worldwide from centralized data centers that are often in the United States.
  • Non-English speakers often download web browsers that default to English. The accept-language header is often incorrectly set to en-US because it is the default.
  • People may use a borrowed computer that doesn't match their language or home country. For example when vacationing and using an internet cafe.
  • IP geolocation is very inaccurate. It is wrong up to 10% of the time.

It is fine for SEO to use browser language and geo IP to put a message near the top of the page. Something like:

You appear to be in the United States using and English language browser. Click here to move to the English website.


I think the other answers seem to have missed the specific question being asked here. Yes, language auto-redirection can be problematic for SEO for the valid points raised in Stephen's answer.

However, the OP simply appears to be asking whether a redirect to a 404 is bad. The language redirection is just a bit of background explaining why this redirection is occurring in the first place.

For these non-existing pages I have first a 301 and then a 404. Does this redirect hurt my SEO ranking?

As, @closetnoc pointed out in comments, whether you serve a 404 immediately or redirect to a 404, there is still nothing to index. It's ultimately a 404 either way you look at it. So, whilst the redirect itself is perhaps a little extra work, it's not going to "hurt" your SEO ranking. (SEO doesn't really come into it.)


It does not hurt in SEO, because there are many of situation when people link to your sources and forgot to mention / slash at the end of URL, www and https, so your server may already redirect them by default, like this

http://www.example.com/source redirect to www.example.com/source/

http://example.com/source/ redirect to https://example.com/source/

example.com/source/ will redirect to www.example.com/source/

While may be in future, your source file is deleted by you, so all user and cralwer/spider will first see 301 redirection then 404 error, so it is common in many situation, hence I said it does not hurt in SEO.

But as stephen said, don't link your article in this way, example.com/abc because Google may not reach to your proper page. So make sure your all example.com/en/abc link to example.com/en/source only.

Use Google fetch and render tool to see how Google view your redirection.

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