The continual evolution of responsive web design is one of the more fascinating trends in web development technology. With a multitude of mobile devices coming to dominate the way we all access the internet, developers are constantly coming up with new innovations that leverage mobile technology in unusual ways. That is nature of responsive design. It’s intent it to easily fit all manners of form and functionality into devices of various screen sizes, be it a computer, a smart phone or a tablet. All designs should be made to adjust the layout according to the screen size without disrupting the clarity or focus of the content.
As web design has adapted to cater to a more mobile audience, so have search engines. Both Google and Bing have publicly acknowledged that having a responsive (or mobile friendly) website is a factor for the ranking and classification of web search results. This means we are in a world where more and more people are searching for information from tablets and mobile phones. With the major search engines having made adjustments for their mobile audience, it’s important to know how responsive website design can positively (or negatively) affect website SEO.
Improves Local SEO Ranking
If you are targeting local keywords in your website content, responsive web design can actually improve local search visibility for your website. With an increased number of mobile users searching for local businesses for directions, hours, and phone numbers; search engines like Google have recognized the importance of sending their mobile users to websites that are optimized with a mobile user interface. When users are searching for local businesses from a mobile device, having a responsive design allows the users to seamlessly go from the search engine results page (SERP) to the website without having any difficulty navigating the page that they land on.
For this reason, search engines like Google scan websites with mobile friendly code by identifying media query breakpoints or user agent detection within the site. Having a responsive design helps Google identify that a website deserves a good position in local search results for mobile users. On the contrary, when your web pages are not mobile friendly, your website will have a poor user experience, leading to high bounce rate for local mobile users, which negatively affects your website position in search results (both locally and in general).
Removes Duplicate Content
In the early days of mobile internet use, it became a common practice for website owners to develop a separate mobile version of a website, typically added on a sub-domain of the main website (m.domain.com for example). In fact, many of these dual website pairs still exist. Users that access one of these websites from a mobile device are automatically redirected to the mobile version of the website, which then presents the user with a mobile optimized version of the website rather than the full website. Typically, this involves duplicating the original content (or parts of it) from the main website onto the mobile version.
But the search engines seem to be opposed to the dual website approach. Google has modified their search ranking algorithms so that having two versions of the same website can negatively effect your website SEO. To the search engines, each sub domain of a website is considered to be a separate entity in terms of website classification and rank. Therefore, if you are using the same content on the full website as you are on the mobile version of the website, your dual websites are actually creating duplicate content as far as the search engines are concerned. And Google penalizes websites for having duplicate content. Not good. And is it worth risking your search engine rank to save any amount of money? No.
Reduces SEO Investment
The main reason a website created using responsive web design techniques benefits SEO is the it will have a single URL for both the desktop and mobile users. This allows all SEO related efforts to be focused on a singular entity rather than being divided between a mobile website and a desktop website. Think of everything that goes into SEO. All the custom written meta tags, internal linking structure, creating keyword focused content, and optimizing all images with Alt tags. With a responsive website all the resources put into SEO, the advertising campaigns, and promotion gets spent in one place. Similarly link building efforts will be mutually beneficial for both desktop and mobile with responsive design.
This also make it easier for search engines to crawl the website URLs. When maintaining dual websites, it is important to identify the primary site using certain declarations in the sites code. This is called canonicalization. With a single website, there is non need for this.
Saves Money Spent on Mobile Development
To many the dual website approach is viewed as a more cost effective solution. It is true that redesigning an entire website using responsive web design techniques can be more costly and time consuming than developing a separate mobile website. Still the dual websites come with some drawbacks.
There is of course the inconvenience and cost of having to maintain content on two separate websites, instead of one. In reality, responsive design may seem like a more costly solution at first, but when you add up the costs of having to development and maintain a separate mobile version of a website, the costs might not be all that far apart. In fact, in many instances responsive websites are more cost efficient in the long term. The fact is, responsive web design helps business owners save time and money that would be otherwise be spent on developing an additional mobile website. Choosing responsive design saves additional costs on mobile development support and maintenance.
Improves Conversion Rate
When working to improve the conversion rate of a website by optimizing a layout page layout, it pays to be responsive. With the dual website approach, you have to maintain a completely separate layout with a separate code base. This can be cumbersome to manage when it comes to optimizing page layout for conversion. And often times it can be difficult to adjust the layout of a mobile website to look good on both tablet and a mobile phone view ports. This then require that additional time and resources be spent optimizing and maintaining the two separate websites.
With a responsive website, you can optimize a page for desktop, tablet, and mobile all within a single code base. Again adding to the efficiency of working with a responsive website. This exemplifies the power and simplicity of responsive web design..
A non-responsive website is likely to have negative impact on your business as it will not be able to compete with other competitive websites that are mobile friendly. To grow your business, it is important to reach more people than your competitors and convert those users into loyal customers. A responsive design will ensure you have a larger audience available to you increasing your chances of conversions by avoiding the pitfalls of the dual website approach.
Responsive design enables you to stay ahead of your competitors. With the increase in demand for tablets and smart phones, responsive design is the key factor that reduces development and maintenance costs and improves search visibility and conversions. So if you have had that static layout for far too long or you are one of those that still have the desktop and mobile versions of your website, do your business a favor and go responsive.