Google adds a speed bump for sites that abuse mobile redirects

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by Brafton Editorial
Website architecture needs to be consistent and helpful for delivering content, or users (especially on mobile devices) will quickly bounce away.

Having a mobile-friendly site is an increasingly important part of content marketing. By 2012, a majority of respondents in a Google survey were already frustrated when they didn’t find a page that was easily viewable on a smartphone or tablet – 67 percent were more likely to buy when they could view a site via mobile, and 61 percent would leave if they couldn’t immediately find what they were seeking. As mobile adoption increases, the importance of optimized sites is even more important.

One trick webmasters have tried to customize the mobile browsing experience is implementing redirects from Google search results. When mobile browsers encounter SERPs, they’re often sent to sites’ mobile homepages, rather than the specific content they wanted. Now, Google is trying to cut down on this practice.

Customers don’t want to phone home

A few seconds can mean the difference between a visitor and a bounce, so sites need to avoid redirects unless absolutely necessary.

According to the Webmaster Central blog, smartphone searchers will now be told, via an info card, if they’re being redirected to a site’s homepage, rather than the content they were looking for in the first place. This speed bump might not seem like an enormous issue from a webmaster’s point of view, but mobile users are notoriously finicky when it comes to page load speed. A few seconds can mean the difference between a visitor and a bounce, so sites need to avoid redirects unless absolutely necessary.

As Brafton reported, redirects are a big pet peeve of Google’s. The company isn’t concerned with organization – although clean site design certainly makes pages easier to crawl, index and list in search results. Instead, the search engine wants to provide exceptional usability whenever possible. And if brands don’t think through the redirects they’re putting in place, they may be missing users’ intent.

Matt Cutts has summed it up by saying that redirects are only as good as the purpose they serve. If a page is a helpful substitute for a similar page that’s unavailable, the redirect is justified. Otherwise, searchers will quickly bounce away because a website assumed the form (a mobile site) was more important than the function (content). UX is an essential part of content marketing, but both need to be balanced, or the overall usability of a site will suffer.

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