Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

Bad behavior on mobile web will be punished

There are things that we put on web sites that we know annoy users. We know they annoy users because they annoy us as well.

But it can be hard to convince your boss or your stakeholders that they shouldn’t do something that is annoying when so many other sites are doing it.

That’s why it is so encouraging when Google decides to penalize sites that utilize these practices. Now you can say to your stakeholders:

In general, I think people spend too much time focusing on search engine optimization hacks and not enough time on writing and producing compelling content or products. But in this case, Google is changing their algorithms that penalize bad practices and create more better sites for users and we’d be foolish not to use this to try to win arguments.

So the next time you’re in a debate with someone who wants to put a big ad on every page to get people to download their app, appeal to their humanity. Remind them that they are hurting people.

And if that doesn’t persuade them, appeal to their wallet. Tell them that they will be shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to search engine rankings.

8 Comments on “Bad behavior on mobile web will be punished”

  1. A lot of this seems like common sense, but it definitely bears repeating. It’s never in your best interest to annoy a visitor off by making them jump through hoops. If Google continues to penalize for it, I bet we’ll see these distractions dropped over time. Telling a company these things hurt their bottom line is basically going for the jugular. As a rule, if I’m thinking about adding a feature, I consider if it would piss off visitors. Even more so if it’s something that pisses me off as a visitor on other sites. That being the case, it doesn’t get added. Period.

  2. Kendall says:

    “Oh hey, you’ve got a mobile design, but it is still downloading all of the desktop assets? Well, now not only will people never see your wonderful design because it will … ?”
    What was the end of this thought?

    • Jason Grigsby says:

      Thank Kendall. That was a broken anchor tag. Oops.

      It is fixed now. The sentence reads:

      Well, now not only will people never see your wonderful design because it will take too long to load, but you’ll also be penalized by the search engines for serving such a slow site.

  3. Jason Lander says:

    Great post Jason! This announcement from Google will definitely be a game changer for a lot of people. I’m definitely stoked to have more of a ‘wallet’ driven argument to use with clients on the value of creating a site for mobile devices.

    I’d love to get your feedback on how this information effects a couple of issues we typically face with clients when discussing mobile.

    1- Often clients we work with want to have a landing page as their home page that forces a user to identify themselves (user type) or provide some kind of basic location or profession information prior to accessing the rest of their site and their content. Are you interpreting the Google announcement to suggest that this behavior will also result in a penalty in the same way the ‘download our app’ pages will?

    2- Also, in terms of making all content available. We often have clients that have pages on their desktop site containing embedded code from other, archaic applications that are not mobile ready. Have you ever encountered something like this? If so, what’s your recommendation on how to deal with this? Meaning, would you still expose the page on mobile devices or hide the content?

    • Jason Grigsby says:

      1- Often clients we work with want to have a landing page as their home page that forces a user to identify themselves (user type) or provide some kind of basic location or profession information prior to accessing the rest of their site and their content. Are you interpreting the Google announcement to suggest that this behavior will also result in a penalty in the same way the ‘download our app’ pages will?

      I don’t know for certain, but I suspect this is already the case even without the new announcements. How does the GoogleBot get through the gate?

      2- Also, in terms of making all content available. We often have clients that have pages on their desktop site containing embedded code from other, archaic applications that are not mobile ready. Have you ever encountered something like this? If so, what’s your recommendation on how to deal with this? Meaning, would you still expose the page on mobile devices or hide the content?

      Yes, we see this quite a bit. Not everything can instantly be made mobile ready.

      Let’s assume for a moment you’re talking about a site that is using device detection to route users to a mobile version of the site. In that case, I would argue to preserve the URL path—ideally without redirect, but if you have to redirect, make sure the path after the domain stays the same—and when someone hits a URL that has desktop content, but no mobile content yet, simply explain, “We’re working hard to make all of our content mobile ready, but unfortunately this content isn’t ready yet. Would you like to look at the desktop page?”

      There are a few keys to doing this well:

      1. There are often links to the desktop view, but then no links back. Make sure people can move back and forth freely.
      2. Maintaining URLs should be the top objective of the solution. Make sure the flow works well regardless of what device hits any version of the URL.

      If it is a responsive design and you have a mixture of pages that have had responsive treatment and those that haven’t, I don’t think you’re going to be penalized for that any more than the fact that there is simply not a mobile optimized version of the page. But that’s a given. This rule change doesn’t impact you.

      On the responsive side, the performance issue is the bigger one. Far too many responsive designs do not do a good job of handling assets which means that they are unnecessarily bloated when viewed on small screens.

      • Jason Lander says:

        Awesome info. Thank you!

        For #1 if the only content on the page was the user identification content then perhaps you could just keep Google from crawling this page and begin indexing with the landing pages.

  4. Grant Kemp says:

    Jason, speaking one mobile geek to another, you hit the nail on the head with that post. Stop annoying site visitors with slow sites and you will win out.
    People care about performance and not just performance of the individual page. Performance of the whole purchase process.

    That’s why Amazon is seen as having such great customer service.

    Good Performance= Good old fashioned good customer service for the digital age.

    Off to go try get people to Speed up.

  5. Great points about site performance. Many people don’t realize that the speed at which your site loads on mobile devices affects your search engine rankings as well as a visitor’s overall perception of your brand.

    With all the talk about using Responsive Design techniques for mobile, it’s valuable to also leverage technologies that allow you to only download the necessary assets for the device your visitor is using. A recent study found that 80% of the “page weight” for responsive websites comes from the images being downloaded on the page, which greatly increases the time required for the page to display to those mobile visitors.