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Google's search results now warn users about faulty redirects

by  David Dwyer on  26/02/2015

Why faulty redirects can seriously damage your websites rankings

Have you ever tried to reach an internal webpage on your mobile and been redirected to the site's home page instead?  It's known as a "faulty redirect", and it's happening so often that Google are now challenging it.  When it looks as though the page you're about to reach is the site's home page instead of the one you searched for, Google is sending the warning "May open the site's home page".  You're then given the option to "Try anyway" or "Learn more", so you can follow the link to the home page if you want to or see where you're being taken before following it.  

"Learn more" doesn't mean you'll be redirected to the page you were trying to find but at least it will save you the frustration of always ending up back at the home pages, regardless of what you search for.

Not only do faulty redirects cause problems and frustration to users, and potentially lost sales to your business, they cause problems for Google's crawling, indexing and ranking algorithms, so your site tumbles down the rankings.  Nobody is happy, nobody wins - and guess who loses most?

So how do you prevent faulty redirects on your mobile site?  The first thing to do is see whether it's happening; take a look at your site on your mobile, try and access different pages, and see what happens.  If it works fine, you don't have a problem. 

If it doesn't work fine, and you're a verified Google user, you will be getting error reports from Google so you'll know which URLs are causing the problem.  The fix is to set up your server to redirect mobile users to the right URLs for your mobile site, which is relatively easy for someone who knows what they're doing.

Alternatively, you can send users to your responsive desktop site and not bother with a mobile site at all.  However, that brings its own problems with slow download speeds, especially if you have a lot of graphics and images on your site.  A responsive site would be Google's preferred option; they're very keen on them.  I'm not, because I don't think they give users a good experience.

My suggestion would be to get a site that's optimised for mobile use and that directs users directly to the right pages.  That way you'll a) be way ahead of most of your competitors and b) be far more appealing to your customers, as they won't suffer the frustration of long download times or faulty redirects.  This is a drum I've been banging for some time, and it's not because having two sites means you'll be paying me more.  In fact, a properly set-up mobile site is inexpensive to build, will earn you far more because it's easy for your customers to use, and will cost you less for later fixes.  So a dedicated mobile site will pay for itself very quickly.  Everybody wins, everybody's happy.

David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David's academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.

Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

Developer SOS, Google Analytics, Mobile Websites, Responsive Web Design, Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Optimisation (Web Copy), The Evolving Web, User eXperience, UX Design, Web Design, Website Support
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