Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) plans to start punishing mobile commerce sites that misdirect customers because the sites are badly configured, the search giant announced last week. The punishment: Misconfigured mobile sites will be pushed down in Google's search results—possibly way down.
The biggest problem is what Google calls "faulty redirects." Those are cases when mobile users click on a search result that takes them to a page that's not relevant to the search. For example, when a website uses a different base URL for regular and mobile users (say, "www.example.com" and "m.example.com"), it's a faulty redirect if clicking on "www.example.com/shoes" or "www.example.com/electronics" always redirects a mobile user to the mobile home page, "m.example.com."
"Even if the user doesn't abandon the site, irrelevant redirects add more work for them to handle, which is particularly troublesome when they're on slow mobile networks," wrote Google engineer Yoshikiyo Kato and analyst Pierre Far in announcing the changes. "These faulty redirects frustrate users whether they're looking for a webpage, video, or something else, and our ranking changes will affect many types of searches."
This time, at least, it's clear that Google isn't leading the way on a problem. Customers are already likely to punish M-commerce sites that waste their time with search results that send them to useless pages. Google may just be piling on, but Google's complaints carry a lot more weight with some e-tailers than abandoned shopping carts.
Other common mistakes include videos that will play on desktop browsers but not on mobile phones (those are typically videos that use Adobe Flash); website pages that redirect mobile users to an error page instead of an appropriate mobile-friendly page; and mobile sites that send Google's own bots in circles, such as when a regular site redirects smartphone browsers to pages optimized for feature phones, which then redirect the smartphone browsers back to the regular pages (which is most likely to happen when different teams write different parts of the website and don't communicate—or test with smartphones).
Kato and Far didn't specify when Google will start penalizing faulty sites, only saying the ranking changes will kick in "in the near future."
- See this Google post
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