google-g-logo-2015-1920-800x450This morning, Google announced that the company is going to be taking action on websites that intentionally or unintentionally have sneaky mobile redirects in place.

It was clarified by Google back in 2014 on their stance on sneaky mobile redirects, but now, the company is giving webmaster a deeper look into these cases.  Could this mean that Google is seeing more cases of deceptive redirects affecting mobile users?  It very well could be.

Vincent Courson & Badr Salmi El Idrissi from the Google Search Quality team said,

“Redirecting mobile users to improve their mobile experience (like redirecting mobile users from example.com/url1 to m.example.com/url1) is often beneficial to them. But redirecting mobile users sneakily to a different content is bad for user experience and is against Google’s webmaster guidelines.”

By redirecting mobile users to different content, this can be bad.  If the same URL is displayed in the search results ages on both desktop and mobile, then everything looks good on the desktop results, but if the same URL opens on a smartphone, then a redirect occurs, and sends the user to an unrelated URL and web page.  This isn’t a good situation at all from the perspective of the user.

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Of course, Google knows that it’s possible that these redirects can happen with out the webmaster knowing.  This can happen due to bad ads, or even being hacked.

  1. It’s possible that there could be some advertising schemes inlplace that redirect mobile users specifically: A script/element installed to display ads and monetize content might be redirecting mobile users to a completely different site without the webmaster being aware of it.
  2. Mobile redirect as a result of the site being a target of hacking: in other cases, if there’s been a website hack, one of the potential results could be redirects to spammy domains that only affect mobile users.

So Google has given webmasters three ways to detect when this happens, because it often goes unnoticed for a while.

  1. Make sure that you check several times a week to find out if you are successfully redirected.
  2. Keep on top of user feedbaack.  If they’re complaining about your site, make sure you take care of it.
  3. Monitor your users in your site’s analytics data.  The purpose is to look for unusual behavior or changes.

Here is some advice given by Google on the topic:

It’s a violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines to redirect a user to a page with the intent of displaying content other than what was made available to the search engine crawler (more information on sneaky redirects). To ensure quality search results for our users, the Google Search Quality team can take action on such sites, including removal of URLs from our index. When we take manual action, we send a message to the site owner via Search Console. Therefore, make sure you’ve set up a Search Console account.

Be sure to choose advertisers who are transparent on how they handle user traffic, to avoid unknowingly redirecting your own users. If you are interested in trust-building in the online advertising space, you may check out industry-wide best practices when participating in ad networks. For example, the Trustworthy Accountability Group’s (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Inventory Quality Guidelines are a good place to start. There are many ways to monetize your content with mobile solutions that provide a high quality user experience, be sure to use them.

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