For a while now, Google has been recommending best practices for mobile SEO. Now, the time has come for Google to enforce those recommendations. That is, either adhere to them or be penalized.
One of the biggest pain points being addressed here is misconfigured redirects. For instance, a shopper may search Google on her mobile device and click on a link to go to a product detail page (PDP) on a retailer’s site. The retailer may serve up the desktop version of the PDP, which may not be a great experience for the mobile user, or redirect the shopper to the mobile homepage, which is not the destination the shopper wanted to go to. These “faulty redirects” will now be penalized, decreasing that site’s rankings for mobile searches, even falling out of the results altogether.
Instead of worrying about redirecting to a mobile site, Google recommends creating a Responsive Web Design (RWD) site. That way, you have one version of the code that works for all devices. The site will responsively adhere to the device screen size to create an optimal experience. Interested in making your site responsive? Contact us, we can help.
Another issue that will be penalized deals with smartphone only errors. Sometimes when a site serves content, it will serve it correctly on the desktop yet deliver an error page to the mobile user. Perhaps the site has a mobile friendly URL for the original desktop requested URL. Instead of serving a 404 error, it should automatically redirect the mobile device to the mobile version of that page. If no such smartphone friendly page exists, at least serve the desktop version. Don’t end up serving a 404 page that gets the shopper nowhere.
Lastly, Google will penalize sites that it may perceive to be cloaking the Googlebot. A site may hide content to mobile users to speed up the experience. To help out the Googlebot and to understand that any redirects occurring are due to improving the mobile experience, first set a “vary header” in the HTTP response. This “vary header” will indicate the user agent letting Google know this experience is for mobile devices which varies from the desktop experience. Second, add an alternate tag meta-tag that identifies the mobile version of the desktop page with the mobile URL. lastly, mobile versions of the pages should have a canonical tag identifying the desktop URL, thus completing the loop.
All these are quite important in keeping your site ranked high in Google for mobile searches. Without adhering to them, you will be penalized. So act now!