November 21, 2013

Research: 1 in 5 Retailers Serving up Mobile Search Errors to Holiday Shoppers

Today we are releasing a complimentary new research report (request a copy) focused on a unique mobile-specific issue that could impact mobile commerce this holiday season for some of the 75% of retailers that provide dedicated mobile sites.

The issue: Faulty mobile redirects

Mobile redirects are the new invisible link of the mobile web – hidden code that acts as a critical bridge linking smartphone shoppers and bots to mobile-formatted content.

But when these links are improperly configured, they can result in errors, irrelevant pages, and reduced mobile sales. What’s new and significant is that with Google’s launch of the Hummingbird algorithm in September of 2013, faulty mobile site redirects can also now result in ranking downgrades in the mobile search results.

How big of a risk is this for retailers this holiday season? Our research attempts to answer this question. For a few brands, we think the risk appears quite small. For others, the risk could be significant.


Of the top 100 US retailers with mobile sites, we found only Amazon and Under Armour display no mobile redirect error pages, no irrelevant mobile redirects, and Google’s required vary header on all pages using mobile redirects.

At the other extreme, more than 1 in 5 retailers with mobile sites have pages serving mobile errors – to Googlebot and to smartphone searchers shopping their wares. In some of these cases, the errors represent just a small fraction of the site – 5% of pages or so. According to our samples, others are serving mobile redirect errors on as many as 25% of pages.

Our new report details these issues of mobile redirect errors, irrelevant mobile redirects and missing header values required for mobile sites. Among the key findings:

    • 80% of the 26,600 desktop pages analyzed redirect mobile users to mobile pages
  • 22% of retailers’ mobile sites display multiple mobile redirect errors


  • 67% of retailers’ mobile sites display irrelevant redirects that send smartphone requests for desktop pages to the mobile homepage or other unrelated content


  • 97% of retailers with mobile site redirects are missing Google’s required redirect header value.


By way of example, here’s the experience a mobile shopper would encounter when searching for holiday dresses at the popular online retailer, Bluefly. A desktop page dedicated to holiday dresses is currently indexed and displayed in Google’s organic results for mobile searchers. But an improperly formatted mobile redirect results in a 404 error, leaving this mobile searcher (and Google’s smartphone bot) out in the cold.



Desktop pages with mobile redirects that lead to errors, as is the case for 22% of retailers, or mobile redirects that lead to irrelevant pages, as is the case with 67% of retailers, are currently being singled out by Google’s new smartphone algorithm. These URLs are at risk of downgrades in Google’s mobile search results.

Pure Oxygen Labs recommends retailers correct mobile redirect issues as soon as possible by prioritizing their work as follows:

  • Audit – Conduct an audit of the most important category, subcategory and product pages to discover these types of issues, and prioritize them against risk levels. Log analysis and various analytic tools provide a good starting point in identifying mobile page errors recorded in the past. Also consider proactive tools like our free Mobile Redirect Viewer to identify and address faulty mobile redirects before any ranking downgrades occur.


  • Optimize – Optimize the pattern-matching code that populates the server’s response headers with the mobile page location, the type of redirect status code, and the “vary” tag values. Make sure desktop URLs that redirect smartphones are mapped to relevant mobile pages.


  • Monitor – Implement technology that can proactively monitor key pages for mobile redirect errors and irrelevant results so you can respond before any downgrades occur in search engines.


To learn even more about mobile redirect errors, request a copy of the full report.


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