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Changes in search ranks based on mobile redirect behavior

The mobile market is ever increasing. With smartphones now becoming the norm and mobile devices such as tablets outselling their desktop counterparts, search engines are beginning to punish web sites that fail to properly redirect their customer base with faulty redirects. So what is a faulty redirect and can your website avoid the search engine result page hit?

Faulty Redirects

Up until just a few years ago the standard practice was to create a desktop website, and a mobile site- if you were feeling fancy. Your desktop site would be http://somesite.com while your mobile site would be http://m.somesite.com. We’ll list a few examples of faulty redirects.

  • http://somesite.com/blog/article - redirects to m.somesite.com
  • http://somesite.com/catolog - redirects to to m.somesite.com

The general idea is that the content the viewer comes to see is unavailable via mobile due to bad code.

Responsive Web Design and Other Alternatives

Simply put, having a responsive web site instead of a desktop and separate mobile site will eliminate the possibility of this issue in your site. With a responsive web site you do not have a differentiation between mobile and desktop. Instead, your website takes the same exact page and affects the layout and look of the page to better accommodate the aspect ratio which the site is being viewed at. For more information on responsive web design, go here.

What if you do not wish to have your website¬†totally redesigned? You need to focus on the code you’re using to redirect viewers to other pages.

Do you have identical content on both your desktop and mobile site?

If your mobile site has all of the same content, blogs, etc as your desktop site you need to ensure that the viewer is properly redirected from the desktop version to the mobile version. Likewise, you’ll want to properly redirect mobile to desktop when appropriate.

Don’t have all the same content on both your mobile and desktop?

In this case, do not forward your mobile viewers to a 404 page, but send them to the desktop site. Even if the page is hard to read because the user has to pinch and scroll. You’re accomplishing two things here. First, you’re continuing to provide the service your site sets out to provide. Second, you’re not serving an error message which will tell search engines this site is useless.

Avoid the infinite redirect loop

Once I was discussing a client’s old site while at lunch. The conversation was impromptu so we pulled it up on my phone. The site took me to a mobile version, which we were not interested in so we scrolled to the bottom and clicked the “View Desktop Version” link. This link took us to the desktop version of the page which then redirected us back to the mobile version of the site- an infinite redirection loop. If this happens when a search engine is attempting to crawl your site while in it’s mobile crawl mode it will be recorded as an error on your page negatively affecting your ranking.

Usage of Flash and Video

Many sites are still heavily dependent upon Flash for video playback- YouTube included. However, if you don’t have a proper back up for your mobile visitors this pings an error on your page to search engines. Much like the infinite loop. To solve this problem use a backup solution like SWFObject to create an HTML5 alternative to your Flash objects. We mentioned YouTube, this is exactly what they do. For desktop viewers they receive a Flash based video player, for mobile devices they receive an HTML video player.

If you’re presently using Flash to create a cool main navigation for your website and you care about SEO, then you need a new website.

Conclusion

The goal of the search engine is an amazing user experience through the provision of quality and relevant results. Infinite redirect loops, faulty redirect loops and inaccessible content for mobile users diminishes user experience. Thus, earning a search engine result page hit and lowering in the ranks. To read more on Google’s blog, click here.

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