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Google’s New Penalty Keeps Sketchy Mobile Redirects at Bay

If you’re keeping up with the world of SEO, you may know that Google has been warning against using sneaky mobile redirects for some time. Now, they’ve gone from talking the talk to walking the walk—that is, they’re working on a new penalty that will reprimand webmasters who have these redirects in place. So, what is Google’s new penalty? Will it affect you? Or, perhaps we should ask: how can you prevent it from affecting your site?

Google’s New Penalty Keeps Sketchy Mobile Redirects at Bay

What Is Google’s New Penalty?
Before we go any further, let’s clear something up: this applies to only the sneaky, unhelpful mobile redirects. Google makes it clear in their announcement from last month that redirects can be advantageous for the user: “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.” Moves like this make user experience better.

Other kinds of redirects, however, aren’t so helpful—they take users to a URL with content unrelated to what they were searching for, often an ad. This is what Google’s new penalty will target. The goal is to boost overall user experience by eliminating these sketchy mobile redirects.

A Little Backstory . . .
That announcement came from Google about a month ago, and, like their earlier warnings this year, explained that these redirects are against their webmaster guidelines. Still, many sites have been able to get away with them, so the company is taking action. In a recent Google hangout, Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev mentions that he has a team actively working on detecting these sites and penalizing them for the violation. This penalty could mean having your URL removed from Google’s index. Those warnings carry a little more weight now!

Will It Affect You?
That depends. Are you including these kinds of traffic-driving networks in your site purposefully to make more money? (If so, know that your users aren’t thanking you for it!) Then, yes, it likely will affect you. You’ll want to stop affiliating your site with these networks now, before Google’s new penalty is implemented.

Even if you’re not intentionally enforcing these redirects, your site may still be at risk. Lipattsev also says in the hangout that some webmasters are entirely unaware their URL is leading elsewhere. This could be from hacking, or from sneaky third-party scripts or elements the webmaster hadn’t noticed.

What Can You Do?
If you aren’t intentionally redirecting users, but also aren’t sure if this is happening unintentionally, there are a few things you can do to check your site:

What did you find? If you’re a victim of sketchy redirects, look to Google’s symptoms on hacked sites to weigh whether or not your website has been hacked. You can also check Security Issues in your Search Console account.

If your site wasn’t hacked, it’s time for some debugging. Look to your third-party scripts and elements and investigate one at a time whether there’s a culprit. If you find one redirecting you (and therefore your users), consider removing it.

Hoping to get a leg up with Google and other search engines? Check out 417 Marketing, an online marketing company based in Springfield, Missouri, that specializes in SEO and web design. Click here to contact us and learn more about what we can do for your company.