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22pc of retail mobile sites miss the mark on SEO: report

November 22, 2013

Amazon’s mobile site

While Amazon, Staples and Walmart are getting mobile redirects from search results right, others are not and risk being downgraded in Google search results, according to a new study from Pure Oxygen Labs.

The new “Mobile Redirects: The Invisible Links Between Mobile Search and Mobile Commerce” report analyzes mobile search redirect errors across the top 100 retailers. Although there are some good examples of retailers getting the mobile search experience right, two in five retailers analyzed in the study are directing consumers to error pages from a mobile search.

“Last year at holiday season, you had a hall pass – if you had errors, Google didn’t penalize you in any way, but this year it’s different,” said Brian Klais, CEO of Pure Oxygen Labs, Madison, WI.

“These pages can now be downgraded, and we’ve seen evidence of downgrades happening for pages that do serve errors in particular,” he said.

“There is a potential that these pages may not be found by mobile searchers.”

Search problems

Pure Oxygen Labs’ report analyzed 26,000 URL links from 100 top retailers. Approximately 266 URLs per brand were measured, and the research was conducted from October to November.

When Google rolled out the Hummingbird algorithm earlier this year, the changes punished retailers that redirect consumers to error pages or to irrelevant pages. Retailers that do this now risk pushing themselves further down the search results.

The study is meant to quantify how big of a problem this actually is for retailers since approximately 75 percent of retailers have dedicated mobile sites.

Eighty percent of the Web pages analyzed in the report led mobile searchers to mobile pages.

However, a significant percentage of the content that consumers are directed to consists of error pages within a mobile site.

Twenty-two percent of the retailers’ mobile sites displayed multiple mobile redirect errors.

Retailers that use third-party vendors to create dedicated mobile sites are partly to blame here since only a portion of the content from these sites displays in the mobile version of the site.

Sixty-seven percent of retailers’ mobile sites displayed irrelevant redirects to a desktop page. This means that a mobile search for a specific product directs to the homepage of a mobile site.

These irrelevant redirects are not as bad as error pages, but retailers do risk being placed further down in mobile search results.

Additionally, a whopping 97 percent of retailers are missing Google’s required redirect header values.

Amazon’s mobile site

Lead by example

According to the study, Under Armour, Costco and Amazon are examples of retailers that are getting it right with mobile redirects.

Under Armour and Amazon have both made architecture decisions with their Web sites so that URLs are mirrored between desktop and mobile sites.

For example, if a consumer makes a mobile search for a men’s Under Armour item, they are directed to a m-dot version of the desktop URL.

Additionally, Amazon has many of its desktop pages that are not optimized for mobile. Instead of directing consumers back to Amazon’s mobile homepage site from a search, consumers are served a desktop site.

Even though the content is not optimized for mobile, consumers are still served a piece of content.

Other top-performing brands include Staples, Walmart and Sears.

The worst performing sites were The Sports Authority, Bare Necessities, Lumber Liquidators and RadioShack.

“This is new territory – it’s new and invisible links,” Mr. Klais said. “Consumers can’t see them first of all, they can only see the results.

“It hasn’t been as prevalent of an issue that it is now that these mobile redirect errors have some ranking risks associated with them,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York 

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