A quick introduction to responsive design
Responsive design is an approach to web design in which your website automatically adapts to whatever screen it’s on. This provides an optimal viewing experience for the user and means less scrolling, resizing, and panning. It allows for easy reading, navigation, and interaction, and eliminates the need for separate versions of your site. With a responsively designed site, all devices display all of your content and mobile users do not miss out on anything.
SEO efforts extend to all devices
Building domain authority, or credibility, is no easy task for most companies. To rank well in search engine results usually requires hours of carefully thought out on-page optimization, link building, and social media activity. Even then some sites still fall short of their competition. If you put time, effort, and resources into your SEO campaign why not make it count across all devices?
By creating a standalone mobile website with a unique URL you are creating another site to optimize. The effort you put into your primary site will not improve the rankings of your mobile site. Although it’s unlikely you will spend time optimizing this site to rank well, your mobile site may end up “stealing” links or shares from your desktop site.
If the site is built with responsive design the site will be linked to and shared as one; backlinks from all devices are pooled together, contributing to stronger domain authority. Meanwhile, any effort you put in to optimization is combined across all devices, reducing costs and improving performance.
Although this may not be the most talked about component of SEO, bounce rate it is still very important to your rankings. Search engines take note if a user clicks on your website and immediately returns to the search engine page. To search engines, this means that the user did not find what they were looking for and, worse, your site may not be the best option to rank high for that term.
If your mobile site does not include all of the content from your desktop site users may become frustrated when trying to find something that does not exist on their device. If you do not have a site optimized for mobile viewing users are more likely to leave and return to the search engine to find a site that is easy to read and navigate on their screen size.
Responsive design can help improve bounce rate by displaying content that is easy to view and navigate regardless of what device the user is using. If a user lands on your website and it is styled specifically for that screen size, the chances of keeping them on your site is much greater.
Search engines like new and relevant content. This is why many SEO experts may recommend blogging to generate new content on a regular basis. However, maintaining content across multiple sites can become confusing and time consuming. It is also possible that search results lead the user to the wrong version of your site.
Responsive design means that you only have to update content in one place, utilizing fewer resources and ensuring that every user, regardless of their point of entry, has access to the same information. Information they can easily interact with, link to, and share with their social network.
Bing and Google recommend responsive design
Within the past year, both Google and Bing have declared responsive design as their preferred method for optimizing websites across all devices. The fact that the major search engines are adopting this technique provides sustainability to responsive design and is enough for many SEO experts to recommend that companies make the switch. Both Bing and Google cite several reasons for recommending this method for web design. In short: responsive design makes content more accessible and easier for users to interact with, reduces page load time (since there is no need to redirect to the device-optimized view), and saves resources as the search engines only need to crawl and index one site.
There are exceptions
Although responsive design is their preferred method of delivery content across devices, both Google and Bing acknowledge that there are many cases where a device-specific URL is the best option. Take, for example, a very large and complex website with a lot of content on every page. This site would probably benefit from a mobile version because loading all of its content is unrealistic and unnecessary for the mobile user. Desktop sites with enhanced interactivity may also be candidates for a separate mobile site since many of the features will not translate well to a touch screen. Although the trend is leaning toward using responsive design for most websites, it is important to decide what is best for the end user when picking your method to deliver content across devices.
Always a great SEO resource: SEOmoz