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January 28, 2009

Checking Redirects? Don’t trust Live HTTP Headers and Firefox

By Chris Phillips

We all know that we should use 301 redirects to consolidate link value and ensure each unique page of content has its own unique URL. Unfortunately the data that some tools provide are not always accurate.

Firefox’s add on tools can help save time and effort when analyzing websites and redirects. Unfortunately since they are made for Firefox, they are at the mercy of the way Firefox functions.

Live HTTP headers is a great tool that I use quite a bit to check to verify the right header information is being transferred. Unfortunately, Firefox’s “awesome bar” (the part of the browser where you type the URL in) can cause Live HTTP headers to report the wrong data.

Example:
alltell.com is a vanity URL that is owned by Alltel Communications, but IS NOT correctly redirected to the  main Alltel website. When I type in “alltell.com” into the following browsers (and hit enter):

Alltell_type_in  

I get the following results:

Firefox:

Alltell_firefox_screenshot

Internet Explorer:
Alltell_ie_screenshot

Google Chrome:
Alltell_chrome_screenshot



Results:

  • Firefox goes and retrieves the page/site it thinks is most related to what you typed in
  • IE returns a list of google search results
  • Google's chrome returns a page with a DNS error


On the surface this may not seem like an issue, but if you are using tools that are built on top of Firefox, the tools could report back incorrect information.

Live HTTP Headers
Live_http_headers

In the screenshot above, you can see Live HTTP Headers reports back there is a 301 redirect from http://www.alltell.com/ to http://www.alltel.com/ when in fact there is no such redirect.

This can be tested using 3rd party Search Engine Friendly redirect tools. In this example, I will use The Search Engine Friendly Redirect Checker from webconfs.com.This is a good tool to quickly check if a redirect is set up properly. The tool does not provide as much information as an internal agency tool but this tool will let us know if a redirect is “Search Engine Friendly” or “Not Search Engine Friendly”.

Below is the result when I checked to see if alltell.com was set up properly:

Alltell_redirect_check

Below is an example of the response you would receive if your redirect is set up correctly:

Chris_phillips_redirect

As you can see the alltell.com redirect is NOT set up correctly, even though Live HTTP Headers reported a 301 redirect was in place.

So the main idea here is to always double check your data using different tools to make sure you are getting accurate information. Getting accurate data from the beginning of a project can save you a lot of time, and aggravation in the long run.

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Comments

Wow, that is a nice observation you got there. But really i personally don trust that site anymore, i know that site from some forum probably from Google Community, i try to use it but the result didn't went so accurate so i quit from it

I entered "http://www.alltell.com" in the Search Engine Friendly Redirect Checker & it said there 's a redirect to "http://www.alltel.com", so...am i missing something?

This is a great analysis.I've never tried it before and based on your explanation you have point of view and one thing we must remember on using some tools including some firefox addons that there is no accurate tools and manual is the safest but hardest to do on SEO.

I had the same problem, at one point I was believing that there was a new and more direct form of redirection! .. naaa there should be a bug.. bam! found your post. greetings

The comments to this entry are closed.

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