Google is getting more aggressive in its fight against deceptive mobile-only redirects.
In most cases mobile-only redirects are perfectly fine, as long as they help people access the content they requested in a mobile-friendly format.
Mobile-only redirects become a problem when they direct smartphone traffic to unwanted content — such as a page or website they didn’t intend to visit.
Not only is that activity frowned upon, it goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines and can result in a manual action penalty if the search giant finds out.
Google is giving Webmasters yet another warning because now it has become known that deceptive redirects sometimes occur without the Webmaster even knowing about it.
How can this happen? Google gives two possible explanations:
- Advertising: A script installed to display ads might end up redirecting mobile users to a different site, unbeknownst to the webmaster.
- Hacking: If your site gets hacked, attackers could set up redirects to spammy domains for mobile users only.
The only way to know for sure if there are deceptive mobile redirects on your site is to search for it in Google on your phone and click on the results.
In addition, Google also recommends you keep an eye on this by listening to user complaints of redirects, and monitoring analytics data for unusual activity — like a sudden drop in mobile traffic.
If deceptive mobile redirects are in place on your site, Google recommends checking Search Console for any warnings about site hacks.
If there’s no sign of a site hack, there could be a problem with third-party scripts/elements on your site. You can narrow down which one is causing the problem by disabling them one at a time and testing to see if the redirect issue has been fixed.
Google closes its blog post by drilling home the fact that deceptive redirects lead to manual penalties — such as being removed from Google’s index. Could this be a sign that Google is starting to take the issue more seriously?
With over half of searches now coming from mobile, it’s in Google’s best interest to keep its mobile index as clean as possible.
Hackers and spammers are always going to find new ways to do what they do, and unfortunately deceptive mobile redirects are now something site owners need to start watching for.
A couple pieces of advice: ensure proper security measures are in place to protect against hacks, and be careful which advertising scripts you allow on your site.