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Google’s Warning on Homepage Redirects Redefines Mobile SEO

The first week of June, Google announced a change that it will consider the behavior of a website towards mobile users while providing results for smartphone searches. This change is meant to be warning for homepage redirects (faulty redirects in which the smartphone user clicking on page they want is redirected to the home page of the website). Homepage redirects have been a challenge for online marketers who optimize for mobile search traffic and this usually happens when the website is not properly set up to handle smartphone requests. Google’s warning on such faulty redirects is expected to redefine mobile optimization strategies.

Google has announced that this change is applicable only to English search results in the U.S. and its prime aim is to help users avoid landing on irrelevant pages, and is also providing advice and resources to help webmasters fix the faulty redirects and enhance their search engine marketing efforts.

In the official Google Webmaster blog post announcing this change, Google states that when it detects that the smartphone users are redirected to a homepage instead of the page they requested, Google will note this in the search result saying ‘May open the site’s homepage’. If the searchers still want to proceed to the page, they can click the ‘Try anyway’ option:

Site Homepage

Google offers webmasters some tips to direct their audience to the pages they want:

  • Conduct Mobile Searches on Your Own – Perform some searches on your own smartphone or with a browser set up to act like a smartphone (for example, a Chrome extension) and then check how your website behaves. The Google team calls this tactic simple but effective
  • Use Webmaster Tools – Check out Webmaster Tools and proceed to the section known as ‘Faulty Redirects’ within the ‘Smartphone Crawl Errors’ under ‘URL errors’. This section will display any faulty directs detected. You can click on one of the faulty directs to see the pages and the problems associated with them so that you can understand if any of your site’s pages are redirecting smartphone users to the homepage
  • URL Errors

  • Eliminate Faulty Directs – Once the faulty redirects are detected, the next step is to investigate and fix them as early as possible. Google offers the following suggestions:
    • Example URLs provided in Webmaster Tools can be used as a starting point to debug exactly where the problem is with your server configuration
    • Set up your server so as to redirect smartphone users to equivalent URL on your smartphone site. If any of your site pages do not have a smartphone equivalent, allow the users to stay on the desktop rather than redirecting them to the homepage of your website
    • Try to use responsive web design so that desktop and smartphone users will be served same content

According to a research from Ericsson, smartphone contracts are expected to reach 5.6 billion globally by 2019, which is three times than that of the smartphone contracts today. Another study conducted by Google and Nielsen shows mobile search triggers 55% of conversions including store visits, phone calls or purchase. These studies clearly indicate the rising importance of smartphone searches in driving purchases, which means that businesses need to build smartphone-friendly sites and direct mobile users to the pages they want rather than the homepage. And if they do, now Google’s warning will discourage them from clicking. Professional website designers take heed of Google’s recommendations on building smartphone friendly websites (see https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/?utm_source=wmc-blog&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=FR-post).