responsive-web-design-a-quick-guideWebsite owners today are faced with the decision of either having a separate mobile website or making their current site responsive. Responsive design simply means that the site will respond to the screen of the device used for browsing and display accordingly. There’s no doubt that responsive web design is here to stay. If you doubt it, just ask some of the major designers. Read more about Ethan Marcotte’s 20 favourite responsive sites.

The methodology of the responsive design is still undergoing some evolution – and always will – as new devices like the iPad mini enter the market. Instead of targeting devices, we’ll see a shift towards the site’s responsiveness so it will adapt to various devices. The bottom line is that as long as multiple devices for browsing are accessible, responsive design will always be a requirement.

There are many benefits for choosing responsive design including some SEO benefits.

Here’s a brief summary of some SEO benefits of responsive design, which we’ll expand on below:

  • Higher Local Rankings
  • Your Onsite SEO Efforts Are Still Applicable
  • Avoid Duplicate Content
  • Keep Your Links
  • Google Said So

Higher Local Rankings

If you’re targeting local keywords for business, a responsive design will increase your rankings. Keep in mind that more and more people are searching for directions to local businesses while on the go – using their mobile devices. Yelp reported quite a few months ago that about 40% of searches came from their mobile app. BGR chimed in to say that more than 10% of all web searches originate from mobile devices. Mobile search results are influenced by geo-specific parameters, so your website will have to meet these local SEO pointers. In this way, Google will be able to identify your optimized site as one that’s suitable for quality placement in the search engines.

A real world example is this: A mobile user would quickly hit the back button if your page doesn’t display the right way on his mobile device. He’ll return to the results and find one that does. These actions will be picked up by the search engines as poor user experience and ultimately affect your placement in the mobile results. Please read the full Recommendations for building smartphone-optimized websites by the Google Webmaster Team

Your Onsite SEO Efforts Are Still Applicable

SEO is costly and time consuming, so why would you want to repeat the experience for a mobile site? When you choose responsive design over a separate mobile site, all your onsite SEO efforts and social sharing will also apply to the mobile version of your site.

Most of your onsite SEO will be maintained for the mobile site, including your anchor text, internal link structure, title tags, meta descriptions, keywords, content and search engine friendly URLs. Making your site responsive now, when the topic is hot but largely unused, will get you noticed. Here are a few great examples:

Avoid Duplicate Content

Responsive design removes the challenge of duplicate content. Webmasters who create mobile versions of their websites usually just replicate the content from the main website on the mobile version. This immediately removes the credibility of the mobile site from the search engines’ perspective. That means it will be difficult for the mobile site to rank. You can counteract the effects of this by using Switchboard tags to make the link between your mobile and desktop pages, but what if Google doesn’t make the connection? Bing and Yahoo have not fully implemented tagging, so you can ruin your site’s reputation with these search engines as well. Responsive design also removes the challenge of updating two or more websites.

Keep Your Links

Link building is even more time consuming and costly today than it was months ago. If you’ve invested a lot of time and resources in building backlinks to your site, you’re better off using those links for the benefit of your mobile site as well. People who build stand-alone mobile versions of their websites have to start from scratch with SEO and link building. By using responsive design you’ll have a major advantage over companies that are not.

Another benefit is that pages from your responsive site are more likely to be shared. A mobile user is less likely to share the mobile version of a page if he belives that his followers will have difficulty viewing the page on a mobile device. Shared mobile links usually open up to fit the browser but contain none of the graphics associated with the original site.

Google Loves Responsive Design

Google is still dominant in search, although search engines like Bing are gaining some of their market share. Until Google’s dominance ends, we pretty much have to listen to what Google has to say and Google has confirmed that responsive web design is the way to go:

“Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.”

Read Google’s recommended configuration for details.

Google’s algorithm now places a lot of weight on user experience. This includes social sharing, the average time spent on a site and the bounce rate. Google will reward your site with a higher placement in the SERPs if you improve your users’ experience. For more information on this subject, read the SEO of Responsive Web Design.

The bottom line here is to take Google at their word, and optimize your site so that it is mobile friendly. It will help improve your rankings and your mobile browsers will thank you for it.