Smart phones ranking

Smartphone Rankings Demotion in Google Search Results Based on Faulty Redirects [Case Study]

Smartphone Rankings Demotion in Google Search ResultsIn June of 2013, Pierre Far from Google explained that providing a poor mobile experience could impact a site’s rankings in the smartphone search results. Basically, if a site is making mistakes with how it is handling mobile visits, then that site risks being demoted in the search results when users are searching from their smartphones. And as smartphones boom, that message scared a lot of people.

Specifically, Pierre listed two common mistakes that could cause a poor user experience. First, having faulty redirects could force users to irrelevant content, or to just to the mobile homepage of a website. For example, imagine searching for a specific product, service, review, blog post, etc., and finding that in the search results. But as you click through, the site redirects you to the mobile homepage. That sounds really annoying, right? But it happens more than you think. And that’s especially true since the problem is hidden for desktop users.

Desktop URL on Electronista.comBut that June day in 2013 passed, and businesses moved on. Sure, mobile is important, it’s taking over, blah blah blah. In addition, I’m sure many wondered if Google would really demote a site in the smartphone search results. I mean, why move a powerful site like yours down in the results when your pages really should rank highly (like they do on desktop)? Google would probably only do that to low quality sites, right?.. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Faulty Redirects – An Example Caught in the Wild
Last week, I was checking Techmeme for the latest technology news and clicked through an article written by Electronista. I forget which story the article was about, but Electronista was listed first for the news at hand.Redirect to Mobile Homepage on So I clicked through and was immediately redirected to the mobile homepage. I navigated back to Techmeme, clicked the listing again, and was promptly redirected again. So I visited another site listed for the story on Techmeme and got the information I was looking for.

*ALERT* – That’s exactly the user experience Google is trying to avoid happening to people searching Google. And that’s one of the core scenarios that Pierre listed that could result in a rankings demotion. So that got me thinking.302 Redirect to Mobile Homepage on What about other pages on Electronista? Were they also redirecting mobile users to the mobile homepage? And if this problem was widespread, were they being demoted in the smartphone search results? And so I dug in.

Side note: I’m not targeting Electronista by writing this. Actually, I hope this post helps them. I can only imagine that if they fix the problem, then their traffic from smartphone users on Google will skyrocket.

An Example of a Faulty Redirect on Electronista

I’m sure you are wondering how this looks. Here’s a quick example. Let’s say I was researching a Nexus 7 tablet and comparing it to an iPad mini. Electronista has an article focused on that topic. On desktop or tablet, I visit that url and can view the entire post. But on my smartphone, visiting that url redirects me to the mobile homepage (via a 302 redirect).

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