The maintenance of mobile websites can be complicated; even top retailers make common mistakes. Recently, Pure Oxygen Labs released a study examining top 100 U.S. retailers online and found 97 percent with mobile sites were missing Google’s required redirect header values.
“Unlike the 404 page errors on a desktop site, mobile redirect errors are more difficult to diagnose because the faulty code usually resides on the web server and only becomes active in response to a mobile user or bot request,” Pure Oxygen Labs said in an announcement. “Errors and irrelevant signals are triggered when this server code redirects the mobile searcher to a non-existent or unrelated mobile page.”
Additional findings of the report included:
- 22 percent of brands analyzed have desktop URLs that redirect mobile users and bots to error pages – either 404 errors (page-not-found) or 500-series internal server errors.
- 67 percent of brands analyzed contained multiple irrelevant redirects across their sampled URLs. In most cases, the sample URLs redirect smartphone requests for desktop page URLs over to the mobile site’s homepage URL.
Of those analyzed, retailers like Amazon (ranked the No. 1 online retailer out of 100), Costco (No. 11) and Under Armour (No. 70) didn’t display any mobile redirect errors, the report said.
However, Pure Oxygen Labs said sites like "GameStop, Bluefly, Bass Pro Shops, Microsoft Store and Vitamin Shoppe are among the 67 percent that could improve their mobile commerce returns by correcting faulty links before Black Friday."
The following is a snapshot of the top 25 retailers with a summary of their mobile shortcomings:
In the report, Pure Oxygen Labs discussed the potential for retailers to inadvertently participate in spammy techniques when the mobile site is not following best practices.
“The most common server-side methods of redirecting smartphones to mobile URLs closely resemble an old-school SEO spam tactic called bait-and-switch redirects¸ in which optimized content is served to spider user-agents (like Googlebot) while un-optimized content is served to other user-agents (like humans). Google requires webmasters to tag or disclose when content at a URL (such as "www.domain.com/product") varies by user-agent. This is intended to help avoid inadvertent downgrades by spam-checking algorithms.”
Pure Oxygen Labs gave tips for those looking to clean up their mobile act with the following:
- Conduct a full audit of your most important category, subcategory and product pages to discover these types of issues. Log analysis and various analytic tools can provide a free starting point in identifying mobile page errors recorded in the past. Also consider proactive tools like Mobile Redirect Viewer that help predict which pages are likely to produce mobile errors or irrelevant redirects in the future. Diagnostic tools can also help confirm suspicions about whether pages have been downgraded in smartphone search results.
- Optimize the device-detection code used by the server to target certain smartphones, and the pattern-matching code that populates the server's response headers with the mobile page location, the type of redirect status code, and the "vary" tag values. Identify and resolve mobile redirect errors as soon as possible. Make sure desktop URLs that redirect smartphones are mapped to relevant mobile pages. If one does not exist, mobile users should receive the desktop version for now.
- Implement technology that can proactively monitor key pages for mobile redirect errors and irrelevant results so you can respond before any downgrades occur in search engines.