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A Match Made in Heaven: SEO and Responsive Design

Posted on 9.30.2015

:: By Joe Drury, Webtrends ::


Get a group of digital marketers or Web developers from different companies together and ask them if responsive design is part of their current or future plans. You’ll have a room full of raised hands.

Even though this design is where most are headed, however, statistics vary dramatically on how many sites are actually responsive today. Nonetheless, hands are raised, plans are set and the number of responsive sites is growing every day – for a host of good reasons. At the top of list: the benefits to search engine optimization (SEO). 

Simply put, using responsive design makes your website easily viewed on any screen size. The explosion of mobile device Web browsing and associated poor user experiences played into Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update that went into effect in spring of 2015. While mobile friendliness is still a relatively lightweight ranking signal compared to things like quality content, we do expect the importance to only grow over time. Some additional reasons to consider going responsive include: 

Usability 

Responsive design makes sites easier to read for the visitor, and thus enhances the overall user experience. The more people who enjoy the experience, the more come back. This factor alone is enough to understand why Google made the change this year to include mobile friendliness as a factor in its ranking algorithm.   

Faster Load Time

Another known ranking factor is page load speed. Responsive design does not require a redirection of queries to a certain URL, so it’s faster than a mobile site. Google has already confirmed that it is using site speed in Web search ranking, and we expect this trend to only continue.  There are many online tools you can use to test the load time of your site.

Link Building

Link building is one of the top tasks for SEO managers. It’s an ongoing and lengthy process to build links from trustworthy sites. According to Moz, “Since the late 1990s search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance in the ongoing democratic opinion poll of the Web.” When moving to a responsive design website, you can maintain all the backlinks that your original site has. 

Decreased Bounce Rate

Search engines interpret a high bounce rate to mean the content was not relevant to the user and will decrease your site’s rank accordingly. Responsive design still lets you display relevant content the user is looking for. 

Lower Chances of Duplicate Content

Search engines have a difficult time determining which page of duplicate content to include in search results. If you have a separate mobile site, you risk having duplicate content on the Web and hurting your rankings.

Social Share Growth

With responsive design, you keep all the social shares to one site, and when a link to your site is shared, it’s easily readable on any device.

Just One URL

With responsive design, there’s no need to create a mobile version of your site, which would mean starting over in getting better site authority. Also, with one URL, you can send all of your paid media campaigns to the same page without worrying about your device targeting.

Cost Effective

A responsive designed website costs less than having to build a mobile site as well.

Reputation Building

Forty-eight percent of people said that if a site didn’t work well on their phones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business.

Salvaged On-Page SEO Efforts

All the on-page work (title tags, meta descriptions, etc.) are saved when using responsive design. If you create a separate site, you’ll have to do the work again and risk something going wrong or missing.

There are many resources to help move to a responsive design if you’re sold on the concept but haven’t put a plan in place. If you have a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, there are hundreds of responsive themes to choose from. Examples include frameworks such as Bootstrap or Foundation

At the end of the day, responsive design is a no brainer in order to provide a good user experience. Add to that a heaping of quality SEO and it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a virtual stampede to responsive site development.  


Joe Drury Bio:

Joe Drury leads the Search and Social Marketing team for Webtrends. He spends his days driving client strategy and diving into the weeds of all things paid search, SEO, display and social. 

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