How your mobile site can hurt your search rankings

Poorly configured mobile websites are being relegated by Google

This is one of those important topics which most website owners will be unaware of simply because it’s quite technical. Dental web marketing companies should understand its significance but may keep it low key because it means significant re-work of dentist’s websites. So what is the issue exactly?

faulty mobile redirects diagram

This simple diagram shows the problem – i.e. where all pages of the desk-top version of your website are re-directed to the home page and not the corresponding page in the mobile version. The effect of this on your search positions is significant and needs to be addressed….

A few months ago Google announced that it would relegate mobile websites where the parent website does not re-direct correctly to the corresponding page of the associated mobile site. Simply put, if a user finds your website in Google on their mobile ‘phone and is always re-directed to the home page of your mobile site, then this is no longer good practice. According to Google this will likely result in your website being relegated in mobile search. Clearly this is not a good situation, particularly now that > 30% of users are finding your site via hand-held devices. Here is the official line from Google at the link below:

Google Webmaster Central – Correct Configuration of Mobile Re-directs

Re-directing every page of the main website to the home page of the mobile version used to be standard practice and lots of sites still do this. However, in its quest for “best user experience” Google now advises that this is wrong and will result in poorer ranking. This might seem a bit harsh as you could argue that any mobile page is better than a standard web page viewed on mobile. Purists will argue in Google’s favour in that a web user who has say, searched for and found a result about dental implants on their mobile ‘phone, might expect to go to that page on the target mobile site and not the home page. This is another example of Google’s relentless pursuit of best user experience.

In fact Google are so adamant about this that where a suitable corresponding page does not exist in your mobile site, they advise don’t even re-direct the main site page:

“Make sure that the smartphone-friendly page itself is not an error page. If your content is not available in a smartphone-friendly format, serve the desktop page instead. Showing the content the user was looking for is a much better experience than showing an error page or irrelevant content.”

I have an old style mobile website – what can I do?

  • ideally we would recommend ditching your old-fashioned mobile website and go for a new responsive design. This is current best-practice and a technique which has many advantages over old-style mobile sites. This page on responsive dental websites explains why.
  • if it’s not practical to abandon your mobile site until you go for a full website update, you should ask your designer to revisit the page re-direct mechanism and modify this in line with Google’s latest requirements.

What if I do nothing?

Given that you will almost certainly see a drop off in your mobile search results, doing nothing with your current configuration is not really a sensible option. Remember that mobile usage is already huge and set to overtake desk-top viewing quite soon – consequently it’s very important to make sure that your mobile strategy is set up correctly. Although Google only identified these new requirements a few months back, there is already a lot of evidence to show that sites which are incorrectly configured are falling back in search ranking positions.

Summary

This is another important example of how a change in Google’s stance can have quite severe adverse effects on your search positions. If you have a mobile website, please test it to see how it behaves in line with the new guidelines. If it fails, please contact the Dental Media Web Marketing team on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to advise how to rectify this.