Responsive Design for SEO?

Posted on by Andrew Martin
Categories: Google Tagged: , ,

Mobile is huge, we’ve talked about that a lot recently, but optimizing your site for mobile can be a correspondingly huge amount of work. You have to tweak all of your existing elements to make sure they display properly, and you have to check it across a variety of devices. The workaround for this has been to get a responsive design, but is this style of design good for your SEO? We have the answer from Matt Cutts, and (for once) it’s actually pretty interesting.

To start, I’d like to clarify what a responsive design actually is. Essentially, a responsive site is designed from the ground up to handle displaying on a wide range of devices. This is accomplished by breaking down the layout into what is essentially a grid, and then resizing elements on that grid by percentages, rather than a hard unit like pixels. With some additional media queries to keep everything sound, the result is a site that displays fairly well on mobile. They generally aren’t as good as sites explicitly designed for mobile, but they’re a simple solution to a clunky problem.

But how do they affect your SEO?

It turns out, they are actually the best option for easy and effective SEO. The alternative to responsive design is generally redirects and m-dot sites. With these, you are splitting your homepage into two URLs (the regular and the m. version) and thus splitting your SEO focus. The benefit of responsive design is that, by their very nature, there is only one URL. This way, any links you accrue are all pointed at the same domain. Of course, the m-dot sites can be designed to be a better user experience, but they require a lot more time and effort to get right.

I’d say that for most cases, a responsive design will work just fine. Just make sure you check your own site in mobile every so often and ensure that everything is working well, because there have been plenty of cases where designs are billed as responsive but don’t really deliver the goods.