Responsive web design is Google’s preferred solution for creating scalable and seamless web properties across desktop, tablet and mobile devices, but it’s not always the best choice for SEO. When deciding whether or not to build a responsive web design, there are many factors to consider. R2i recommends weighing all your options so you can select the option that is best suited for your business objectives. But first, a little industry insight:
Forrester Research, in their 2013 Mobile Trends for Marketers report, said that, “Responsive design will be hyped once again in 2013.” Responsive design is not a “magic elixir” they say, because:
1) The consistency of experiences across devices is only one small element of the overall picture
2) Companies will need divergent app and web strategies as well as mobile content and service curation
3) Not every portable/mobile device will have a browser
4) Supporting different use cases across devices requires a process to implement responsive design principles
Yes, responsive design allows one website to deliver a great user experience across multiple devices and screen sizes, and it can make managing mobile SEO strategy easier for some marketers. But, the argument among SEOs, marketers and designers/developers is whether or not a responsive website or a separate mobile website is the better choice.
Is Responsive Design for You?
Ask yourself the following to help determine whether responsive design is right for you: what is the purpose of the website; who is the intended target audience; is SEO a factor or important tactic in your digital strategy? Here are three reasons why responsive web design may be a good option for your mobile SEO strategy.
1. Recommended By Google: Google has stated that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration; they’ve even considered it as the industry best practice. Why? Because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of device, which makes it easier and more efficient for search engines like Google to crawl, index, and organize content. Search Engine Watch is reporting, “Google also prefers responsive web design because singular hosted and offered content is much easier for users to share, interact with, and link to than content that lives on a separate mobile site.”
CON: With the introduction of switchboard tags, Google can now understand which site should appear when, regardless of URL structure.
2. Deliver One Site Across Multiple Devices: One appealing aspect of responsive web design is that it can provide a great user experience across multiple devices/screen sizes. A site that performs well regardless of the device variables will serve up a better user experience than a separate mobile site designed specifically for a device or screen size.
CON: The user experience can now be improved with mobile features that are currently not being used on the desktop (e.g. camera, scanner, GPS, etc.).
3. Easier to Manage: Sites with a separate desktop and mobile experience require separate SEO campaigns. Responsive design allows SEO teams to manage one version and one SEO operation more easily than managing two of each.
CON: Having a mobile-specific SEO strategy allows for optimization of phrases and terms more likely to be searched via the smartphone or tablet.
Is Mobile Design for You?
Does any of the following apply to your business? Is your desktop website missing categories or keywords mobile searchers are looking for? Is site speed important for site conversions? Can UX be improved using mobile features not available on desktop (e.g. camera, scanner, GPS, etc.)? Are you targeting any users with feature phones (i.e., non-U.S., non-affluent, non-white, older)? If so, dynamic serving or mobile URLs may be the best option for you for SEO purposes.
Mobile URLs Option
If mobile sounds like the better option, read these five reasons why mobile URLs or dynamic serving options may be a more attractive option for mobile SEO.
- When desktop website does not contain categories mobile searchers are looking for
- When desktop website does not contain keywords mobile searchers are using
- When responsive layout increases load time significantly
- When target audience primarily uses feature phones
- When it prevents product innovation that improves the user experience