Responsive Web Design (RWD); A Ranking Factor?
The leading Search Engine has made it clear that RWD (Responsive Web Design) is their preferred mobile configuration which gives a hint to designers that using RWD would probably give a ranking boost.
Given the numbers that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US” or consider the importance placed on Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update, it’s no secret that mobile configuration is a big part of the future of SEO and digital marketing in general.
It is now a fact that the real success in Google is relatively in direct proportional to having a successful mobile presence. However, in designing a mobile website, there are three choices: responsive, adaptive and the traditional mobile sites.
In the later statement, it seems that Google preferred responsive web design. This design approach uses fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images and varying CSS style rules to deliver different user experiences to desktop, tablet and mobile devices while maintaining the same HTML and URL structure. The site shrinks or grows according to device.
The responsive web design page distinctly says, “We [Google] recommend using responsive web design because…” and then goes on to list six ways responsive design saves Google resources, delivers improved user experiences and avoids SEO pitfalls like bad redirects and fragmented link presence.
When Google’s big push to reduce duplicate and low-quality content started years ago and canonical tagging became the norm, I often joked that Google will “forgive” a site for bad HTML, but it won’t forgive sites that waste their resources.
Until proven otherwise by causative studies, we’re left with the famous line from Altered States: “The final truth of all things is that there is no final truth.”
Each configuration carries its own potential SEO benefits and liabilities. If any responsive, adaptive or m.Dot site is not set up properly, simply using that configuration will not be a positive SEO ranking factor that overcomes that misstep.
With that said, I do think Google’s overall preference is clear: responsive is the way they’d like webmasters to configure their sites. Is it a positive SEO ranking factor? Not yet.
In the very near future this may change. Let us wait and see.