Google announced last June 2013 that it would be more adjusting search rankings appearing on smartphones based on how well the site in question handled the mobile user experience. The company said it planned “to roll out several ranking changes that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
These smartphone configuration errors include homepage redirects, and smartphone-only errors such as videos that are unplayable, smartphone-only serving 404 pages or redirects when equivalent content exists on the desktop site.
The First Evidence Emerges
GM uses smartphone-only error pages on their mobile site as a substitute for their brand landing pages, which require Flash to display the content. Hat tip to this new york ppc company for alerting me to their existence at SES San Francisco.
GM presents a smartphone-only error page to mobile users looking to view brand landing pages constructed in Flash.
A couple of weeks ago, these pages placed for some brand keywords, including Cadillac and Buick. From the 10 Keywords, there was a slight difference between smartphone and desktop ranking in Google for each, with the smartphone error pages outranking the functional desktop pages by five positions in aggregate.
Up until now, the error page only shows up for one of those keywords. Others have been eliminated from the first five pages. There are some instances that Google swapped the brand-specific website or page in search results for a higher-level landing page. For example, for the query [gm Buick], the Buick website on GM.com used to rank second. Today, the ranking is the same, but the listing is GM.com — making it less likely that a searcher will encounter an error page via Google.