Google Penguin, Mobile Redirects, App Banners, and Other Search News

There’s been a lot of discussion about Google Panda and its protracted rollout, but that’s not the only thing that’s been happening in search. Here, we take a look at some of the news and updates regarding search in the past week that some of us might have missed.

Google Penguin: Coming Real Soon

As we discussed in a previous post, we’re expecting Google to roll out an update to its Penguin algorithm before the year ends. This comes after Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed it on Twitter. The plan is for this algorithm to be in real-time, with penalties and recovery happening as soon as Google detects the identification or removal of spammy links. With less than two months before 2016, it would be a great strategy to start checking for link profiles as early as now.

Unwanted Sneaky Mobile Redirects

In April 2014, Google clarified their stance on redirects. While regular redirects are part of how the Web works, some are put in place to manipulate search engines. As we know, anything that goes against Google’s guidelines can only do harm to websites. Last week, the search giant reiterated their stance against unwanted sneaky redirects, particularly on mobile. The company said it will take action against websites that intentionally or unintentionally have sneaky mobile redirects. In a post on the Webmaster Central Blog,Vincent Courson and BadrSalmi El Idrissi of Google’s Search Quality team explains, “Redirecting mobile users to improve their mobile experience (like redirecting mobile users from example.com/url1 to m.example.com/url1) is often beneficial to them. But redirecting mobile users sneakily to a different content is bad for user experience and is against Google’s webmaster guidelines.” For example, the same URL shows up on both desktop and mobile search. When you click the desktop result, the URL opens normally, but when you click the same result on a smartphone, it redirects to an unrelated URL or webpage. This is a frustrating experience for users. desktop and mobile search
Photo from Google Webmaster Central Blog: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Wv94m5XRKCI/VjGbZYPU9lI/AAAAAAAABO4/P0tj09pmh2Q/s1600/imagine.png
  For its part, the search giant understands that these redirects can sometimes happen unintentionally. Typically, mobile-only sneaky redirects happen without the webmaster’s or site owner’s knowledge through:
  • Advertising schemes that redirect mobile users specifically A script/element installed to display ads and monetize content might be redirecting mobile users to a completely different site without the webmaster being aware of it.
  • Mobile redirect as a result of the site being a target of hacking In other cases, if your website has been hacked, a potential result can be redirects to spammy domains for mobile users only.
Google did give tips on how webmasters can detect if their site has sneaky mobile redirects:
  1. Check for redirects personally by navigating your site (from Google search results) via a mobile device several times a week.
  2. Listen to users and see if they are complaining about site redirects/navigation.
  3. Monitor users through the site’s analytics data, noting any unusual changes or behaviors.
If you do find a sneaky mobile redirect, you should:
  1. Make sure the website is not hacked. Search Console’s Security Issues tool should give you some information about this.
  2. Re-check third-party scripts/elements on your site. Do an audit of these third-party elements by removing them one by one to see when the redirect stops.
Google reiterates that “(redirecting) a user to a page with the intent of displaying content other than what was made available to the search engine crawler.” To provide smooth user experience and to ensure quality search results, the Search Quality team can take a number of actions on such sites, “including removal of URLs from our index.  When we take manual action, we send a message to the site owner via Search Console.”

Annoying App Download Interstitial Ads

Google seems to be cracking down on all annoyances on mobile that affect user experience. Last week, they pushed through with labeling as non-mobile-friendly the pages with an app install interstitial that blocks the majority of the content/screen. mobile search
Photo from Google Webmasters Google+ account: https://plus.google.com/+GoogleWebmasters/posts/7qKTxCp2PZx?pid=6212637004951629346&oid=114243819907053956301
  This change, however, didn’t come without warning. Back in July, the search giant warned webmasters about app download interstitials. Google stepped it up in September by saying pages with app download interstitials, particularly those that take up a large portion of the mobile screen, will be devalued in mobile search results. Starting this month, pages with obtrusive app banners will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. As such, these will not be prominently displayed in Google search results on mobile. While these app banners help drive app downloads and installs, Google argues these are often bothersome to mobile users. “Instead of full page interstitials, we recommend that webmasters use more user-friendly formats such as app install banners,” Google said in a Google+ post. Side note: In the recent SMX Israel, Google Search Console product manager, Michael Fink, advised webmasters, developers, and SEOs, in general, to not build apps just for ranking purposes. He said more than a rank boost, you should only build apps if it provides a better experience for users. If there’s one thing we can take away with these announcements, it’s that mobile and user experience are things that should go hand-in-hand. Check back regularly for more updates on everything search and SEO. Get in touch with us today for effective, reliable SEO and digital marketing services.