The Problem With Mobile Redirects
A mobile redirect is a code that causes a mobile visitor to be redirected to a page that is different in content from the page that is shown to users of desktop PCs and laptops.
Google several times noted that it will take serious action against webmasters who intentionally or accidentally put mobile redirects on their sites.
Google first explained its position on malicious redirects on mobile devices back in 2014, but now it announced even closer attention to this problem. Webmasters should be aware that the search engine is noticing more and more unwanted and misleading redirects.
Google’s Search Quality Improvement Team noted:
“Redirecting mobile users to improve their perception of information (for example, a redirect from site.com/link1 to the mobile version of m.site.com/link1) is most often useful for them. But the fraudulent substitution of one page for another with a completely different content negatively affects the quality of web surfing and goes against the principles of Google. ”
The situation is extremely unpleasant for the user. For example, when the same URL is found on mobile and desktop website versions, and it shows different content on a portable device and a PC (completely different, and often irrelevant content), a frustrated person leaves the page. In this situation, search quality drops, which is why Google struggles with such redirects quite hard.
Google knows and emphasizes that sometimes the redirect occurs against the will of the webmaster. Most often, this happens due to the presence of bad ads or a hacker attack.
Some advertising schemes that involve placing ad code on a website to monetize it, may contain redirects to completely different Internet resources. At the same time, the webmaster may not even know about it since he was not warned beforehand.
The site can also be attacked by hackers. In this case, mobile visitors are redirected to spam or phishing sites with domains created specifically for “mobile” traffic.
Here are several guidelines for detecting such cases of redirection:
- At least several times a week, check that your site is displayed correctly on the screen of portable devices.
- Pay attention to the comments of your site visitors.
- Monitor statistics of user behavior, notice any changes.
Here’s one more note from Google about this issue:
“Redirecting a user to a page other than the one available to the crawler is a violation of the Webmaster Guidelines. To ensure the quality of its search results, the Google team takes action against violators, including excluding URLs with a mobile redirect from the search results.
When we notice a violation, we send a message to the site owner through the Search Console. Therefore, make sure your site is added to this service.
Be sure to choose legit and “transparent” ad networks for posting ads on your site. This will help you avoid redirecting smartphone users to other sites without your knowledge.”
True, “doorway” pages do not bring any value to the user, and therefore should not appear in the search results. Antivirus programs can easily detect malicious code, just like browsers with the Safe Browsing API. As a result, the flow of visitors to an infected website sometimes decreases several times.
It is strongly advised to abandon dubious mobile redirects and not participate in affiliate networks that offer monetization of mobile users this way.
The danger of a mobile redirect
For a webmaster, late detection of a malicious code becomes a big problem as a significant part of the traffic is wasted, a negative attitude of visitors grows, potential customers are often redirected to a competitor’s website. In big cities with a population of over one million, up to 80% of people cannot get to an infected site. In medium and small towns, the site loses up to 60% of potential customers. In addition, a malicious redirect causes bad indexing.
A lot of analysts note that in a year, 9 out of 10 of all devices connected to the Internet will be telephones. This means that the problem of mobile redirects will become colossal.
Unfortunately, the recommendations given by the employees of Google to the webmasters do not always help to solve the problem. Modern viruses use the IP addresses, screen resolution, and OS versions of smartphones to identify new website visitors. They react to repeated visits by launching the redirect. The user thinks that some kind of error has occurred and leaves the website.
The tricks used in the malicious code can also bypass the antivirus protection and hide the presence of the virus from the site owner for a long time.
In one of the studies, it was noted that Google detects malware only in 20% of the analyzed sites.
Meanwhile, viruses with redirects steal personal data of smartphone users, withdraw money from bank accounts, offer to download dubious applications, and redirect them to websites with obscene content. This can damage the reputation of the site owner, especially if the site belongs to a large company.
How to identify and eliminate a mobile redirect
Thorough monitoring and antivirus software do not always work effectively, so it is advisable to think about subscribing to specialized online services that check sites for various redirects around the clock.