It’s an unfortunate fact that no matter how much you’ve invested in a gorgeous website, you might still be sending your visitors away in droves. The problem is that all that effort isn’t worth much in today’s digital landscape if you aren’t reaching the mobile consumer. We know that today, nearly three-quarters of consumers online want and expect mobile- friendly websites. If you’re not meeting them on their terms, then you’re probably not meeting them at all.
This is where responsive web design comes in, and not only is it important to your audience, it’s also key to succeeding with SEO. There’s been quite a bit being said about responsive web design lately, especially with Google’s recent algorithm changes and their mobile first indexing. This has many businesses wondering if responsive web design is a ranking factor and how important it is for today’s SEO.
The Difference Between Mobile Optimization and Responsive Design
Let’s start out by busting the misconception that mobile friendly and responsive web design mean the same thing. They’re similar in the fact that they both make it easier for mobile consumers to connect with you, however the basic premise is different.
To put it simply, a mobile friendly site is one that’s designed to function perfectly on mobile devices. However, mobile friendly web design can be limiting on its own. Where the problem with traditional site design is that it doesn’t translate well to mobile devices, the opposite is true for mobile friendly web design – they work great for mobile but can be lackluster at best when viewed from a desktop. This is why some businesses choose to have two separate designs, one for their desktop customer and one for mobile users.
Honestly, that’s too much work.
Responsive web design offers a solution. Responsive web design makes it possible for your webpages to adapt to the device that they’re being viewed from. One site and one design with maximum adaptability. Sounds good, right? Search engines think so too, which brings us to how responsive websites win at the SEO game.
Above is a responsive website we designed for York Furrier. When viewed on mobile, customers are easily able to access information like the store location as well as quickly contact the store via phone, email, or live chat.
Responsive Web Design and SEO
So, is responsive web design a ranking factor or not? We know that Google has said that it really likes responsive web design and we also know that Google isn’t always forthcoming with the components of their algorithm. That said, responsive web design itself probably isn’t ranking factor, but it does play into many things that are.
We know that all the elements that combine to create a great user experience are important to SEO. Search engines like their users to be happy and they’re going to support any features that do the job. Just look at how “Mobilegeddon” completely changed how internet users are engaging with businesses online and how that alone has changed the priority ranking factors of search engines – like the adoption of Google’s mobile first indexing system.
Mobile First Indexing
Google has made it known that they prefer sites that are designed to work seamlessly on mobile devices and they’ve made sure businesses know it’s a priority with their mobile first indexing. According to Google’s best practices for mobile first indexing, they still use only one index, however they will predominantly use the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. In other words, all sites still get indexed, but those with mobile optimized design are at the front of the line.
This makes responsive web design an absolute necessity for appearing in search engine results. Sure, without it you’ll still get ranked “somewhere”, but it’s becoming practically impossible to make it on to page one without responsive website.
Responsive Web Design and User Experience
There are plenty of elements that play into your SEO success – over 200 of them, in fact. That’s a lot of things to consider, but we also know that they don’t all hold the same weight. The basic elements of SEO have changed a bit recently, and that has left some businesses scrambling while trying to figure out where to focus their efforts. Today, your SEO target should be on one thing – user experience.
Happy visitors equal SEO bonus points. Factors like the amount of time visitors are spending on your site along with bounce and exit rates matter. These types of metrics provide search engines with clues about the quality of your site. This is where responsive web design really matters.
When viewed on mobile, the responsive website we designed for Peachtree Home Inspections highlights the company’s phone number and the fact that they are veteran owned. The other pages of the site are still easily accessible via the “hamburger” menu on the top right.
Let’s start by taking a look at something as basic as usability. If you’ve ever attempted to navigate a traditional page on the limited space of a smartphone screen, you know exactly how frustrating that process can be for the user. However, we need to look deeper than that.
While a majority of internet traffic coming from smartphones these days, people are still using other devices. When they connect with a site through their mobile device, they’re going to expect the exact same experience the next time they visit, whether they’re on their desktop, tablet or phone. Responsive web design helps to ensure a cohesive experience every time they visit. This means they’re more likely to make repeat visits, spend more time while there and eventually convert.
Additionally, responsive web design makes it easy for audiences to consume your content regardless of their device. This is essential if you want to build brand awareness by having visitors share your content or site link with others.
Before we wrap this up, let’s take a minute and talk about all the practical functions of responsive web design that are going to make your life easier while elevating your SEO performance. For instance, search engines are not a fan of duplicate content. If you have separate sites for your desktop and mobile visitors, maintaining a strong SEO strategy without duplicate content becomes exponentially more difficult.
Then there’s speed. We know that loading speed is critical for encouraging visitors to hang around and any lag is going to cause your SEO to take a hit. Optimizing traditional web design for slow loading pages is a time consuming challenge, but responsive web design makes it easy.
In today’s competitive digital landscape, it’s important that your business is doing everything it can to capture the attention of your audience, no matter what device they’re on. Investing in a responsive website is an easy way of making your visitors, and the search engines that guided them there, happy for the long run.