What is a Meta Refresh?

The meta refresh tags used by websites are designed to redirect from one page to another. Unlike other forms of redirect, the page loads then refresh after a delay.

This transition can be very confusing for users and may appear manipulative. All browsers do not support the code, and as such, it may not work for all users.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommends you avoid using these on your website. As such, Google has also come out advised against using meta refresh on your site.

How can I check I use Meta Refreshes?

To check for meta refresh, you can view the source code of each page. If you’re using Chrome then you can use the following shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + U for Windows
  • CMD + shift + U for Macintosh

This technique will help you to see the source code. Then you will need to search for “http-equiv” or “refresh” in the text. The code looks like this in the source:

<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; url=https://example.com/”>

Other tools exist that allow you to check multiple pages. For example, using Screaming Frog, you can review for meta refresh across all your pages.

meta refresh in Screaming Frog

How can I fix my Meta Refreshes?

Several alternatives that can be used instead of meta refreshes include; 301, 302, 307 and 308 redirects, as well as Javascript. These techniques are better for users and easy to implement.

While it’s advised to use 301 permanent redirects, you may wish to use Javascript redirects for specific purposes. Below we discuss both options to help choose which is right for you.

301 Redirects

The best form of redirects in most instances is the 301 redirect. Google and all major search engines accept these redirects as valid. The change occurs at the server side and avoids confusion for users.

Javascript Redirects

Javascript redirects benefit from having access to more information than the server’s initial query. While the server may notice the HTTP Headers, it doesn’t take screen size or resolution information.

Another benefit is that Javascript redirects are non-discreet. If you want to display a message to users as you redirect – this is possible. The script also benefits from being able to go backwards and avoid being stuck on the new page.

This approach allows similar functionality as a meta refresh while providing the users with a better experience overall.