Here, we explain what Google deems a “sneaky redirect”, why they lower site quality and how to ensure you don’t have any on your site.

What is a redirect?

A redirect takes a visitor to a different URL to the one they originally requested. In a lot of cases, it makes perfect sense to redirect a user from one URL to another, like when moving your site to a new address.

However, some redirects deceive search engines, redirecting users to a page that differs to that made available to site crawlers. It’s against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to redirect a user to a different page with the intention of showing content other than that made available to the search engine crawler.

What makes a redirect “sneaky”?

Sneaky redirects are redirects in place that take users to a page they were not looking for. For example, if a user visited a site page which claimed to be about music but was instead about drama, this would be a “sneaky” redirect as the user was looking for information on music, not drama. Similarly, if a desktop user received a normal page, whilst a mobile user was redirected to an entirely different spam domain, this would also be a sneaky redirect.

Why should I avoid “sneaky redirects”?

The Google Webmaster Guidelines explicitly states that site owners should ‘Avoid sneaky redirects” in order to maintain a quality site. Your main concern with any site page should always be your users. In each case you must ensure you’re sending both users and search engine spiders to the same place.

Things to consider when making a redirect

Why am I making this redirect?

The answer to this should usually be to guide your visitors to the correct information. If you were redirecting users from an old page to a newer revision of it, this is completely fine as you’re making the redirect to help the user find the up to date information they need.

However, if you’re redirecting users from an old page about music to one about drama, then you’re being sneaky as this is clearly not the content they’re looking for.

Will this redirect be useful to the user?

A user should expect the site page they are going to, not be confused or surprised by it. It makes sense that someone searching for music news will not be interested in drama news; anything besides the promised content will simply be a disappointment and the user will have been misled.

How to ensure you never make a “sneaky redirect”

The easiest way to ensure you never infringe on this Webmaster Guideline is to always have the people visiting your site at the forefront of your mind when making redirects.

A successful site is one that attracts returning visitors and user experience is a huge determining factor in whether people will come back to your site again. Ensuring you don’t have any sneaky redirects in place is a good place to start.

Misleading redirects will diminish a user’s confidence in your site, making them much less likely to return. Therefore, always ensure that any redirects you make will be expected by the user and always send visitors and search engines to the same place. Sneaky redirects make a site unappealing to users, and in turn will see you penalised by Google.

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