Google Says: Bad Mobile Redirects Could Cost You Your Rankings

Most of us have been there—browsing the Web on the ol’ smartphone, totally keyed up to read an article sent along with rave reviews.

“LOLZZZZ, this is a MUST READ!
If you read anything in your life, MAKE IT THIS!”

As you fumble over your own fingers to find out what all the commotion is about, impatient for your next LOL, there it is: the sad, the uneventful, the dreaded . . . THE HOME PAGE. This isn’t what you wanted—this is not the article you were looking for! Your initial shock quickly turns to fury, and that fury compels you to swear off the existence of the one and only article you were meant to read in your life. You hit the back button, vowing to never return. And you won’t. Nobody does.

Mobile Rage!

If you think these feelings are a rarity in our ultra-mobile world, you’re mistaken. In fact, this type of  carelessly planned user experience has become all too familiar, and now Google says website owners need to get it together or they might soon suffer the consequences. In an announcement on June 11th, Google revealed that they’re planning to “roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.” This algorithm change will likely result in ranking drops or penalties for websites not following Google’s mobile recommendations.

So what does this mean to you?

Well, if you have a separate mobile site and are simply redirecting visitors to your mobile home page instead of the requested content, you’re doing more harm than good, and Google’s classifying it as a faulty redirect. “Avoiding irrelevant redirects is very easy,” Google advises. “Simply redirect smartphone users from a desktop page to its equivalent smartphone-optimized page. If the content doesn’t exist in a smartphone-friendly format, showing the desktop content is better than redirecting to an irrelevant page.” Still feeling unsure? Just remember this: the only acceptable mobile content is the content the user explicitly requests. A generic mobile page or error page should be out of the question entirely.

The end is in sight.

We came across this issue recently with a client whose mobile Facebook fans were selecting their shared blog links and landing on their mobile home page instead. With this disruptive redirect, their visitors were bouncing right away, assuredly angry—a huge problem for a company with an otherwise successful social presence. After discussing possible solutions with our client, we opted to remove the redirect from each page without a corresponding mobile page. This isn’t the end-all-be-all, though. The solution may be different for your website, depending on the type of redirect used and your individual configuration. Act quickly though and make an appointment with your web developer . . . the next unexpected mobile web rage may be all yours.