You may have heard a lot about mobile-friendly or responsive design in the past year or so, but how important is it for Google and search rankings? Well, Google’s recent announcement on Webmaster Central has finally confirmed what we’ve been preparing for.
What Google Has to Say
The announcement from Google has confirmed what we’ve already been saying; that having a mobile-friendly website is essential to a successful SEO strategy. Google’s exact quote was, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
This means that if you haven’t already converted your website to a responsive design, now is the time. With Google using words like “significant impact,” you better believe this is a major warning to all webmasters.
Even prior to the announcement, Google started making their intentions clear by adding “mobile-friendly” labels to mobile search results, sending website owners mobile usability warnings, launching a new mobile-friendly testing tool, and more.
What Can Responsive Design Do for You?
Responsive design is an approach to web design that allows visitors to have the optimal viewing experience depending on the device (desktop, tablet, or mobile) they are using. This type of design uses fluid grids, proportion-based images and many media rules to allow your layout, images and text to adjust as your website shrinks for smaller screens.
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If you are viewing the website on a desktop, open your browser. Make sure you have a stand-alone window (i.e. you aren't in full-screen mode) and then drag the bottom right edge of the browser window over to the left to make it smaller. You are simulating a tablet size display down to a smartphone display size. You'll see the design change from a full layout, to 2 columns, and then down to 1 column. You'll also see the menu button collapse down to one more easily accessed on a smartphone.
These types of usability features that responsive design offers give your customers a better experience while interacting with your website, and now additionally ensures that Google will not punish your website for not being mobile-friendly.
Google’s Views on Responsive Design
Google has long preferred responsive design over having a separate mobile website.
Here are some of the reasons Google gives for using responsive design:
- Makes it easier for users to share and link to your content with a single URL.
- Helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.
- Requires less engineering time to maintain multiple pages for the same content.
- Reduces the possibility of the common mistakes that affect mobile sites.
- Requires no redirection for users to have a device-optimized view, which reduces load time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone and can degrade your site’s user experience.
- Saves resources when Googlebot crawls your site. For responsive web design pages, a single Googlebot user agent only needs to crawl your page once, rather than crawling multiple times with different Googlebot user agents to retrieve all versions of the content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of your site’s content and keep it appropriately fresh.
It does not matter if you don’t think that customers utilize your website on a mobile device. Chances are they do to some degree. If your website is not currently mobile-friendly, now is the time to switch to responsive design, before Google’s algorithm change significantly affects your mobile search rankings.
If you have questions about responsive design, or are unsure if your website passes the mobile-friendly standards, contact Sales & Marketing Technologies today for more information.