How do responsive design and mobile specific solutions impact upon SEO?
We’ve discussed the rapid increase in mobile web consumption and the pros and cons of responsive design in the past, but now the debate turns to what the best approach for targeting mobile and tablet users is in terms of successful search engine optimisation – responsive web design or mobile specific websites?

Like always there are two sides to the argument, but the overwhelming feeling across the industry is that when it comes to well optimised and easily found content, responsive is the best approach to take.

However, this is very dependent on your company’s overall on and off-line business objectives. Different websites and organisations require different business solutions, and it is only through fully understanding your end goals that you can develop a digital strategy to best achieve these. Therefore, we suggest you begin by evaluating your business needs, your content strategy, your target users, the fragmentation of devices used to access your site, the technology your website requires, and the resources you have available to maintain your web presence.

Fundamentally, the debate all comes back to one key principle – content should lead design. Your content should be the seed from which the design blossoms, making you more thoroughly consider your end users’ needs and, ultimately, enabling you to produce a superior online user experience.

Responsive design has the advantage of forcing you to consider your content regardless of the structure, style or layout, and not because of these factors.  Responsive design also provides a universal and full content experience; meaning visitors are not debilitated by the device they use to access your site.

Some organisations’ objectives may dictate the need for a mobile-specific site. For example, if it is necessary to target key user groups with very different information on different platforms, then a separate mobile site and desktop site may be the sensible and obvious solution.

However, developing a separate, mobile specific site increases the amount of time and resources you require to develop and maintain it, as you then effectively have two sites to manage. Additionally, many sites will be hesitant to link to a mobile specific domain from a desktop/responsive site, meaning that you will fail to garner valuable inbound links, which support improved search engine performance.

It is worthwhile to note that in the debate surrounding how to best serve and target mobile and tablet users online, Google favours responsive design. Responsive design, in their view, offers two core advantages:

Bing also agrees that responsive design is the best approach to maintain successful SEO across sites. Therefore, it would be wise to assume that, if two of the major search engines are recommending responsive design to generate traffic from search across platforms, this would be the best practice in the majority of cases.

In conclusion, just as no two businesses are the same, no digital solution can be. But in terms of search engine efficiency and performance, responsive design presents the most effective means of targeting and attracting mobile and tablet users.

Our recommendations:

  • If you already have a mobile specific site, don’t panic. This solution may be satisfying this user group’s needs and does not present any drastic issues. However, if you are looking to redevelop your web presence then responsive should be a serious consideration.
  • Continuously monitor your site’s analytics to ensure you are providing the best online experience for all user groups, and cater to your traffic sources.
  • In marketing across the board providing uniformity is key. This is no different in digital marketing. Responsive design allows you to support a strong and consistent brand image, maintain ‘one voice’ throughout your marketing communications and present all online information from one central location.
  • If you are looking to redesign or provide a mobile browsing solution consider the other benefits of responsive design too – a consistent yet tailored user experience across platforms and lower costs, in terms of both time and money.

Check how your site responds across platforms!