Why is responsive design so important?

Respon­sive web design (RWD) involves a col­lec­tion of sophis­ti­cat­ed tech­niques which allows your web­site to adapt to any screen size by ren­der­ing the con­tent in an eas­i­ly read­able and nav­i­ga­ble form. Today, if your web­site is not respon­sive, your SEO efforts are being affect­ed adverse­ly. With Google tak­ing mobile-friend­li­ness to anoth­er lev­el, you can­not think of a suc­cess­ful SEO strat­e­gy with­out RWD. Why is respon­sive design so impor­tant and how can you ensure that your site con­forms to it?

Importance of Responsive Design

There are many oth­er fac­tors that play a key role in improv­ing your SEO, but respon­sive design is some­thing that can­not be ignored, and with­out it your SEO pic­ture will be incom­plete. Here are the main rea­sons why it is so impor­tant.

Googlebots take RWD Seriously

At the fun­da­men­tal lev­el, respon­sive design is so ‘valu­able’ from an SEO point of view because of its uni­fied code base. Despite the onset of RWD tech many years ago, a con­sid­er­able per­cent­age of web­sites con­tin­ue to have two ver­sions – desk­top and mobile. The under­ly­ing con­cern is that Google­bots and oth­er search engine bots give impor­tance to sim­ple and neat page hier­ar­chy, which they can only find in respon­sive sites.

Google doesn’t like con­tent rep­e­ti­tion. But with mul­ti­ple ver­sions of the same site, you are pro­mot­ing con­tent rep­e­ti­tion. Thus, Google is like­ly to demote your site if you have dif­fer­ent ver­sions for desk­top and mobile.

Time is anoth­er fac­tor that results in the grad­ual reduc­tion of your pages’ rank­ing. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple ver­sions of your site requires search engine crawlers to spend more time nav­i­gat­ing each of the pages. As the bots require more time to crawl, Google is more like­ly to slow­ly reduce your rank­ings.

On the oth­er hand, RWD relies on a sin­gle URL and code base for desk­tops, lap­tops, tablets and mobile phones. This means faster crawl­ing and bet­ter chances of page rank­ings.

One of the fun­da­men­tals for SEO suc­cess is to keep your con­tent orig­i­nal and non-repet­i­tive. If it is not unique and orig­i­nal, you are going to suf­fer in your organ­ic search rank­ings. You should not only have a sin­gle mobile-opti­mized site, you should also imple­ment test­ed SEO strate­gies to improve your over­all page rank­ings.

Mobile Behavior

While Respon­sive Web Design affects search engine crawlers in many ways, mobile behav­ior is anoth­er fac­tor that Google takes into account. Today, search engine opti­miza­tion is more about user expe­ri­ence, and it would not be wrong to say that respon­sive design is one seri­ous aspect of UX (User Expe­ri­ence Design).

Google and oth­er search engines make every attempt to mea­sure user expe­ri­ence on both desk­top and mobile devices. And Bounce rate is one of the most impor­tant fac­tors, Google even mea­sures the dif­fer­ence between mobile/non-mobile bounce rates.

The data is gath­ered to ascer­tain whether a web­site is mobile friend­ly or not. And Google makes a big claim – that over 60% of mobile users will go to a com­peti­tor site if they find your site to be non-respon­sive.

The ulti­mate goal for search engines is to improve their SERP (Search Engine Results Page) based on deliv­er­ing only rel­e­vant con­tent. If your web­pages offer high bounce rate, search engines are like­ly to reduce your sites rank­ing by think­ing that the “con­tent is not rel­e­vant to your key­words.”

Google’s Recent Mobilegeddon Update

Google’s attach­ment to mobile friend­li­ness can be seen fur­ther with it’s recent, major update unof­fi­cial­ly titled as ‘mobi­leged­don’. This update has affect­ed the rank­ings of many web­sites in mobile search­es. It is anoth­er sign of the direc­tion that Google is head­ed in by con­tin­u­ing to expand the ‘mobile-friend­ly’ fac­tor in its SERPs, and if your site is not respon­sive, it will be left behind.

While Google has a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion of not offi­cial­ly announc­ing its updates, ‘mobi­leged­don’ was an excep­tion. Google announced its release sev­er­al weeks in advance and now respon­sive web design is ‘offi­cial­ly’ a major fac­tor in search engine opti­miza­tion.

Impact of Mobilegeddon

Accord­ing to Google, its mobi­leged­don algo­rithm would make a major impact on mobile search results. The effect could be felt across more than 40% of its mobile search queries. On the oth­er hand, the Pan­da update affect­ed only around 12% of queries and the Pen­guin update just 4% over both desk­top and mobile queries.

So essen­tial­ly respon­sive web design will strong­ly effect SEO. In this arti­cle on Search Engine Jour­nal, there are even more rea­sons why respon­sive design is so impor­tant for SEO.

Importance of Mobile

Accord­ing to Google, it now receives over 50% of its search­es from mobile devices. This was revealed on a recent report and the pub­lished could be found here: news arti­cle. There­fore, web­sites which are respon­sive are more impor­tant to SEO than ever.

Google itself pro­vides a num­ber of tools to help web­mas­ters see the mobile-friend­li­ness of their sites. Google’s Mobile Friend­ly Test page is the most pop­u­lar tool that allows you to test your site. It is most­ly suit­ed to test­ing just a few web pages with­in your site. If you want to test your entire site, it is rec­om­mend­ed that you sign-in into your Web­mas­ter Tools account.

How to Make your Site Responsive?

It is well estab­lished beyond a doubt that respon­sive design is a cru­cial fac­tor in SEO. But how are you going to make your site respon­sive, if it is not already. The tech­nique you want to imple­ment will depend on a num­ber of fac­tors, the most impor­tant ones being the amount of time you can ded­i­cate to it and your bud­get.

Responsive Theme

The best strat­e­gy will be to imple­ment a respon­sive theme for your site. Most web­sites are based on Word­Press and that plat­form sup­ports thou­sands of respon­sive themes. If your site is based on anoth­er plat­form, most of them will have their own respon­sive themes.

Use Responsive Plug-ins

All the lead­ing Con­tent Man­age­ment Sys­tems have respon­sive plu­g­ins that help make your site mobile friend­ly. Some of these plu­g­ins offer more ways to cus­tomize the mobile expe­ri­ence so that not only is the con­tent ren­dered in the best pos­si­ble way, but that there are addi­tion­al fea­tures suit­ed to mobile devices.

If you have a Word­Press site, WPtouch and Jet­Pack are some of the best plu­g­ins for a mobile friend­ly site. The pop­u­lar mobile-friend­ly plu­g­ins for Joom­la are Joom­laShine and Respon­siviz­er, and Dru­pal has MobileTheme and The­meKey.

Use Fluid Layout

Flu­id lay­outs have been in use even before the con­cept of respon­sive web design came into exis­tence. Many inno­v­a­tive web design­ers and devel­op­ers have used it for solv­ing issues asso­ci­at­ed with mul­ti­ple view­port sizes. You could also have flu­id lay­outs cre­at­ed with­out any dif­fi­cul­ty. All that is required is to replace sta­t­ic widths with per­cent­age-based widths in the CSS. You may require the help of an advanced web design­er and devel­op­er for this pur­pose.

Use only Mobile Friendly Technology

Even when you imple­ment all these strate­gies, it is impor­tant to use mobile friend­ly tech­nolo­gies. Keep in mind the lim­i­ta­tions of dif­fer­ent plat­forms. While some plat­forms like iOS will not sup­port Flash and oth­er tech­nolo­gies, some tech­nolo­gies are incom­pat­i­ble with cer­tain plat­forms.

For this rea­son it is impor­tant to ensure that your web­site itself doesn’t rely on tech­nolo­gies which have issues with the major plat­forms. You should have no rea­son to cre­ate anoth­er spe­cial mobile ver­sion for any tech­nol­o­gy.

If your site is not already mobile opti­mized, it is time you took the right step. If you are plan­ning an update, it is rec­om­mend­ed to make your site respon­sive before updat­ing it. This is the right time to have it eval­u­at­ed and make the required changes. The longer you delay it, the more your search rank­ings will be affect­ed. If you are already run­ning an SEO cam­paign, a non-respon­sive site will not help you get much out of it.

Once you update your site for RWD, let us know how your search rank­ings and traf­fic have improved!