Mobile Users Irritated by Automatic Redirects to App Store

At first blush, it might seem to be a good marketing strategy: automatically redirect mobile customers who click on your ad to the app store to purchase your products. However, according to a recent article from TechCrunch, the same strategy that went overboard years ago with pop-up ads on the PC is now becoming a hassle for mobile web surfers who click a link and either unintentionally wind up in the app store or even have a mobile app launch itself on their device.

Redirects Caused by Third-Party Advertisers

Last year, a number of mobile users complained about being automatically redirected to the iTunes App Store or Google Play when they clicked a link for a news article or tried to launch an app they already had on their phone. Often, the redirect completely prevented individuals from accessing the content they were intending to access.

The problem was found to be caused by third-party advertisers who produced ads whose properties were hard to detect or changed the ads after they’d been approved.

Apple addressed the issue with the beta release of iOS 8. However, the situation has cropped up again, indicating that Apple’s attempt to correct is either failed or wasn’t on the full iOS 8 release.

The newly discovered redirect is from Zynga, which redirects users to its apps via online ads. A number of news publishers’ mobile sites were found to be impacted.

Additional info: Ara Labs has conducted extensive research on the redirect problem and writes about that, as well as sharing the components of the Zynga redirect and its delivery chain.

Redirects From Businesses Themselves

Redirects from advertisers aren’t the only problem, however. Some businesses themselves are using the technology to redirect users from their webpage to their own app.

One example of a redirect from a business is Pandora, who last year was found to have abused Android’s “intents” and sent users who visited its website to its app instead.

Google has been working to solve that particular issue by disallowing deeplinks on its new Chrome browser to be triggered unless there is some user interaction first.

In the meantime, Google said that links which go to mobile applications have been highlighted in its mobile search.

Chrome developer advocate Paul Kinlan stated that Google’s philosophy on the matter is that if a user clicks on a link for a webpage, then their intention is to access the content on that webpage. Their intent is not to download an application.

Kinlan further explained that the ability to circumvent a user’s intentions with redirection to an app was a bug that needed to be fixed.

The bottom line with deep app linking, Kinlan explained, is don’t do it without a gesture from the user that the app is what they’re trying to access.

Additional Info: Check out Paul Kinlan’s blog for a number of developer tips on dealing with deep apps, injected content from third parties, and other topics.

What About Interstitials?

According to an article from WebProNews, Google has also been warning businesses not to interstitials for promoting a mobile app as it disrupts a visitor’s usage of the site. Instead, Google is encouraging the use of banner ads within the webpage’s content to promote the app.

Additional Info: For more information about creating interstitial ads that don’t disrupt the Android user’s browsing experience, check out the Google Developers’ page on the matter.

Redirects Caused by Hackers

Not all redirects are caused by third-party advertisers or the businesses themselves. In July of last year, as reported by the Sucuri Blog, there was discussion of a redirect that sent users of certain sites to either a pornographic website or an app for pornographic content. This redirect was caused by malware. The malware code was well hidden so that users wouldn’t immediately think there was something wrong with the website, but rather they accidentally clicked on an ad or typed the website wrong.

While the malware injection initially was submitted via javascript when the page loaded, the newer incarnation used javascript to force a redirection to a secondary landing page, the blog post explained. Businesses were encouraged to check their websites to ensure that they hadn’t been hacked.

Additional Info: eVuln Labs offers instructions on how to fix websites that have been hit with a malicious redirect. Stackoverflow also offers a question and answer board with topics pertaining to malicious code.

In Closing…

As consumers rely more and more on the use of their mobile devices, apps are increasing in their value to a business looking to market its products. However, when it comes to redirecting device users to your app, you must ask the important questions: Does this person want to see the app? Do they want to download the app? Were these questions asked before they were redirected? If the answer is no or you’re not sure, then your app link needs more work.

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