Google’s John Mueller warns site owners using meta refresh that doing so may lead to the wrong content getting indexed.
That can happen because Google treats meta refresh as a redirect, meaning the page that the user ultimately lands on is the one that will get indexed.
Site owners may run into problems using meta refresh in certain instances. For example, if an online store uses meta refresh to send a customer from a product listing page to a payment page.
In that example, using meta refresh would be problematic because the payment page would get indexed and not the actual product page.
Mueller addressed this topic when a question came up in a recent Webmaster Central hangout, where a person asked:
“Some sites are using meta refresh after 5 seconds and redirecting the user to a payment page from the content. In this case does it impact their ranking? I still see their pages indexed with content behind payment, and Google User can’t see the content. What is Google’s recommendation here?”
Not only is this a bad practice from a user experience perspective, Mueller says, but Google will assume the page being refreshed to is the one that should be indexed.
So keep that in mind when using meta refresh.
To Mueller’s point about upsetting users — it’s best to let users navigate a site on their own rather than using a delayed redirect.
You can see Mueller’s full response in the video below starting at the 42:02 mark.
“That sounds like a really bad practice, and I assume most people who visit your website once, when you do this, they won’t come back. So that’s at least one group of people who are going to be upset.
With regards to the meta refresh, we do see this as a redirect as well. So if you do this across your pages there’s a big chance we’ll follow this redirect and think “Oh, this payment page is actually what you want to have indexed and not the actual content,” and in that case we won’t have the content indexed. So that’s generally a bad thing too.”