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How-to 8 min read September 10, 2019

How to find and fix sneaky redirects for mobile devices

Using sneaky mobile redirects violates Google's terms and may cause the website to be removed from the index. You need to eliminate advertising or hacker scripts that cause redirection of users of mobile devices.

What are sneaky redirects

To answer this question, you first need to figure out what a redirect is; it an automatic redirecting a visitor to another page or website.

Sneaky redirects mean that the user's mobile device is redirected to content which can't be accessed by a crawler, for example, WAP-click affiliate programs. These redirects violate recommendations from Google. Search engine sanctions can be applied to resources using such redirects by removing pages from the index.

In this case, we are not talking about redirecting users of mobile devices to an adapted lightweight version of the website hosted on a subdomain. Redirecting mobile traffic to other URLs is problematic as it interferes with normal access to the desired resource.
In this situation, computer and smartphone users see the same URL in the search results. A visitor using a stationary device will get to the correct page, and the user of the mobile device will be redirected to another URL.
The resource convenience for visitors is a top priority for search engines; therefore unfairly advertised projects are banned for a particular period of time. If the website owner then removes all advertising scripts with redirects, the resource gets back to the search engines index.

This kind of redirect can either occur by the website owners' will or appear without their knowledge for the following reasons:
Redirects are created via code; individual free widgets can inwardly steal project visitors or redirect them to malicious sites.
The resource uses a script to display advertising or any other monetization; selling mobile traffic through WAP-click affiliate programs obviously leads to sanctions. Similar resources can be found via such a query on Google:


This is a file that must be placed for mobile operators. They control the participation of the resource in the WAP-click affiliate program which sells visitors which come to your website from a portable device.
Hackers defaced your project and added redirection to advertising websites. Sometimes you can be redirected to a malicious website that illegally collects personal information or withdraws money from bank cards.
You can find out if there is a hidden redirect in your project by going to your resource from Google search results on a mobile device or on portable device emulators.

You can run a check in the browser developer tools in Firefox, Safari, or Chrome. If there is no sneaky redirect, you will be redirected to the checked resource will be carried out regardless of the device used.

Here's what the interface of the developer tool console and the place where you choose the device type look like:
Choosing a mobile version in the Google Chrome console

How to check redirects and find sneaky redirects

Often in the case of sneaky redirects, not only the device used is important, but also the source from which the user came to the resource, that is, a search engine or social media. You are only redirected if several conditions are met. As a result, the resource owner may not be aware of such problems on their website.

In those cases, there may be two information sources:
Visitors who submit redirect complaints. In this situation, you need to contact users to clarify all the details, that is, which device they used to visit the site, where they ended up. You can ask them for a screenshot showing the page with a problem.
Web analytics, that is, in the case of a sharp decrease in session duration of visitors who came from portable devices.
Such cases do not always indicate that there are sneaky redirects, but they need to be closely monitored.

To be automatically informed about significant declines in mobile traffic, you can set notifications in Google Analytics.

To do that, go to the subsection "Custom alerts" of the "Custom reports" section:
Google Analytics Special Alerts
Press "Manage custom alerts":
Manage notifications in Google Analytics
Then, specify the alert name, select period, and tick the "Send me an email when this alert triggers" box to receive alerts by email.
Analytics Traffic Reduction Alert
Now let's specify alert conditions. You will receive an alert if the average session duration of mobile users decreases by more than 50% compared to the same day in the previous week. When you specify all conditions, press "Save Alert":
How to turn on notifications for Google Analytics

Removing sneaky redirects from the website

First of all, you need to make sure that your resource is not hacked. You can do it in the "Security Issues" section in Google Search Console:
security problems on the site using Google Search Console
If your website is hacked, you will see the respective message on it. Follow Google's guidelines to recover your website.
If your resource is not hacked, you need to make sure there are no unnecessary scripts or elements that could trigger redirects. Look for the redirection code in the <script> and <iframe> tags; it may look like this:
<script type="text/javascript">location.replace("http://website-address");</script>
First, you need to backup your project on the hosting. Then, one by one, remove third-party scripts and elements from the pages where the redirect occurs.

After you delete every script, make sure the redirect disappeared. If a script that causes a redirect to a website is still there, you must remove it from the project and contact the advertiser or developer of the widget to find out the next possible actions if necessary.
You can check your resource for viruses and vulnerabilities via the tool Ai-Bolit:
Site Scanning for viruses and vulnerabilities Ai-Bolit
Don't lose sight of the human factor when searching for the reasons that cause sneaky redirects as you need to make sure that everyone with access to the website modification is honest (e.g., the administrator, moderator, and other team members).

How to avoid sneaky redirects

To avoid such issues, you need to be smart when choosing advertisers. We also suggest you carefully go through the TAG Inventory Quality Guidelines (IQG) by IAB. Google AdSense is a verified option for running affiliate ads.

There are currently many options for monetizing content for mobile devices that are convenient for visitors and do not lead to the removal of a resource from the index of search engines; it is necessary to use them.

It is also important to only install widgets and social media buttons from verified official sources on the website.


Sneaky website redirects entail problems, including the loss of the audience using mobile devices, and being banned by the search engines.

To avoid these difficulties, you need to be smart when choosing advertisers, install widgets and buttons only from official resources, and inspect the project with the antivirus if you suspect that there are any problems.

This article is a part of Serpstat's Checklist tool
Checklist at Serpstat" title = "How to find and fix sneaky redirects for mobile devices 16261788334667" />
Checklist is a ready-to-do list that helps to keep reporting of the work progress on a specific project. The tool contains templates with an extensive list of project development parameters where you can also add your own items and plans.
Try Checklist now

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