It’s no secret Google is pushing for sites to be more mobile-friendly. And that doesn’t always mean "just go mobile." There are technical considerations when implementing mobile solutions that can mean the difference between merely being accessibile and creating great experiences.
Faulty redirects are one of the common mistakes site owners make when implementing mobile. This is what happens, for example, when a desktop site redirects smartphone users to the mobile site’s home page, no matter what URL within the site they are trying to access.
Google warns against this, and in June, it announced it would start sending messages to mobile users for English search results in the U.S. when faulty redirects were detected to ask users if they really want to continue to the site.
You can guess what might happen next: It’s likely in some cases the user would have bounced anyway, but with this new notification system, those sites may not even see visits.
Google wants webmasters to be proactive in the matter, and, as a result, they will receive notifications, too. From Google's announcement:
Check out Webmaster Tools — we’ll send you a message if we detect that any of your site’s pages are redirecting smartphone users to the homepage. We’ll also show you any faulty redirects we detect in the Smartphone Crawl Errors section of Webmaster Tools.
Earlier this week, Marie Haynes of HIS Web Marketing pointed out that those faulty redirect notifications had started going out.
First time I've seen this. Google sent an email telling a site to stop redirecting its mobile users to the home page pic.twitter.com/DSUn5hA9h4— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) August 11, 2014
Haynes said it didn’t seem like there was a notice in Google Webmaster Tools, but she then spotted it the following day:
As a reminder, there are several ways to access recommendations from Google on how to remedy bad mobile experiences. In the post on faulty redirects, Google gives the following suggestions for a plan of attack:
- Use the example URLs we provide in Webmaster Tools as a starting point to debug exactly where the problem is with your server configuration.
- Set up your server so that it redirects smartphone users to the equivalent URL on your smartphone site.
- If a page on your site doesn’t have a smartphone equivalent, keep users on the desktop page, rather than redirecting them to the smartphone site’s homepage. Doing nothing is better than doing something wrong in this case.
- Try using responsive Web design, which serves the same content for desktop and smartphone users.