Google Helps End Mobile User Frustration Over Bad Links
Website searches shouldn't lead to frustration for users. That's the idea behind a batch of how-to suggestions from Google that aim to fix incorrect connections between Websites and incoming requests from mobile devices.
The link repair tips were unveiled in a June 4 post by Mariya Moeva, a Webmaster trends analyst, on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.
"Have you ever used Google Search on your smartphone and clicked on a promising-looking result, only to end up on the mobile site's home page, with no idea why the page you were hoping to see vanished?" wrote Moeva. "This is such a common annoyance that we've even seen comics about it. Usually this happens because the Website is not properly set up to handle requests from smartphones and sends you to its smartphone home page—we call this a 'faulty redirect.'"
To lessen the frustrations of the errant links for mobile users, Google Search will now at least advise users of the problem and explain that the home page will come up, rather than the page they are seeking, wrote Moeva.
"We'd like to spare users the frustration of landing on irrelevant pages and help Webmasters fix the faulty redirects. Starting today in our English search results in the U.S., whenever we detect that smartphone users are redirected to a home page instead of the page they asked for, we may note it below the result. If you still wish to proceed to the page, you can click 'Try anyway,'" she wrote.
In addition, Webmasters who want to fix or prevent the issue on their own pages can follow several tips from Google.
First, Webmasters can perform a few searches on a mobile phone (or with a browser set up to act like a smartphone) so they can see exactly how their Websites are behaving and whether the redirect issues are occurring, wrote Moeva.
Site developers can also go into their Google Webmaster Tools portal, where Google will "send you a message if we detect that any of your site's pages are redirecting smartphone users to the home page," wrote Moeva. "We'll also show you any faulty redirects we detect in the Smartphone Crawl Errors section of Webmaster Tools."
Developers should also investigate any faulty redirects and fix them using a few steps, wrote Moeva. "Use the example URLs we provide in Webmaster Tools as a starting point to debug exactly where the problem is with your server configuration," Moeva wrote.
In addition, Webmasters should set up their servers so that they redirect smartphone users to the equivalent URL on their smartphone sites, she wrote. "If a page on your site doesn't have a smartphone equivalent, keep users on the desktop page, rather than redirecting them to the smartphone site's home page. Doing nothing is better than doing something wrong in this case."
Another possibility to prevent the problem is to try using responsive Web design, which serves the same content for desktop and smartphone users, Moeva wrote.
Google often provides help and advice to Webmasters to make their sites more effective and responsive for mobile users. In May 2014, Google added new recommendations to help businesses streamline their mobile Web pages so that they load faster and perform better for mobile users, which can, in turn, help businesses increase their mobile transactions and sales. The improvements came about due to Google's recent updates to its PageSpeed Insights tools for developers, which allow them to see how their pages are performing for customers.
In December 2013, Google introduced a checklist for mobile developers to help guide them in building better mobile-friendly Web pages.