Google’s John Mueller advises site owners to aim for less than 5 hops in a 301 redirect chain for URLs that are frequently crawled.
This is not only advisable in order to maintain optimal page speed, Mueller says Google will only follow 5 hops in a redirect chain per crawl attempt. If there’s more than 5 hops in a chain then Google will not land on the destination URL.
Mueller provided this advice in a Reddit thread where an SEO was asking if it was acceptable to use more than one 301 when redirecting from one blog post to another.
In response, Mueller says it doesn’t matter as long as there’s less than 5 in total:
“It doesn’t matter. The only thing I’d watch out for is that you have less than 5 hops for URLs that are frequently crawled. With multiple hops, the main effect is that it’s a bit slower for users. Search engines just follow the redirect chain (for Google: up to 5 hops in the chain per crawl attempt).”
A redirect chain refers to the technique of stringing multiple 301s together to go from a redirect, to a redirect, to a redirect, to a destination URL. Each redirect in the chain is referred to as a “hop.”
Ideally, site owners should aim for no more than one hop, as more than that will slow down the experience for users. More than 5 will result in Googlebot not being able to land on the intended URL at all.