Webmasters who employ “sneak mobile redirects” risk incurring the wrath of Google after a new warning from the search giant.
Google has said it will take action if a URL loads one thing from the desktop but then redirects users to different content from mobile search results.
The problem with the new warning is that the issue isn’t simply black and white because there can be legitimate reasons to show mobile and desktop users different content.
However, in most cases, this actually means directing users to a mobile-optimised version of what is essentially the same content. Google accepts this use for mobile redirects and says it understands these modifications “very well.”
On other occasions, the process can actually happen without the webmaster’s knowledge or consent; for example, when an advertising scheme redirects mobile users specifically or even in the case of a site having been hacked.
Although Google will still take actions in cases like these, webmasters set up with Search Console should be able to deal with any such issues easily.
Google’s thinking behind the new warning announcement was explained by Vincent Courson and Badr Salmi El Idrissi in a blog post: “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.”
The post advised: “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.”
Google also pointed out the need for webmasters to check if any sneaky mobile redirects are taking place, advising them to look and see if they are redirected when they navigate their site on their smartphone. Google also suggested looking out for a drop in the average time spent on site by mobile users.