We all know the importance of having a mobile-friendly, responsive website design now, don’t we? And if not, where have you been? A responsive website design improves your website’s visibility and usability on mobile devices, and with mobile search now overtaking traditional search, this is a key factor in reaching out to potential customers and keeping them on your site.
1). Google loves responsive website design
Everyone who works in SEO knows that lord Google can be easily angered and the results of a ranking drop can be devastating for the business involved… Luckily there are also ways to please Google, and one of these is to implement a responsive design into your website. Delivering a responsive website instead of two versions for mobile and desktop means less work for Google, as Googlebot will only need to crawl and index one site. This also means quicker index times for your business, so everyone’s a winner!
This comes straight from the mouth of Google, so we would be foolish to ignore it.
2). Google hates a high bounce rate
And rightly so… A high bounce rate can mean a number of things but, crucially, search engines see this as a negative sign and will interpret this as your content not being relevant to the users search query. As Google’s goal is to provide users with the best possible results for their query, a high bounce rate will mean a drop in rankings.
Bounces are not always directly related to the content. If your site is not mobile optimized and the user is visiting on a mobile device, their experience may be negatively affected due to small fonts, large loading times, etc. and they may leave due to their frustrating experience. This is where a responsive website design can help reduce bounce rates. A well thought-out and structured responsive design will improve the user experience, delivering the content they require in a user-friendly way, which will in turn keep users on your page.
3. Improve your rankings for mobile searches
As of April 21st 2015 Google announced that they would be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Once again, Lord Google has spoken, and we must listen. There are now effectively 2 Google indexes; one for desktop/laptop searches; and one for mobile searches. If your website is not mobile-friendly, then it will not perform as well as it could in the mobile searches.
On May 5th 2015 Google announced that searches on mobiles had finally overtaken searches on computers. So, not only is it now a ranking factor, but mobile is now the “primary screen” for marketing your business.
4. One Website
A responsive website design means delivering your content to all devices from a single source. No need to keep two separate websites up to date, no need to carry out SEO processes for 2 websites and no danger of one version becoming out of date or forgotten.
Having a separate mobile website will inevitably increase your workload as you struggle to keep the content on both sites consistent, but that is not the only negative. Creating a separate site for mobile means you are effectively starting the site from scratch. This means ranking factors already gained by your current site will not be passed on to your mobile version, so you may well find your mobile site does not perform well for mobile searches. Sure, you could create a subdirectory, or subdomain from your current site, and this will pass some “juice” over, but you will not have the same benefit of using your primary domain.
Having a responsive website solves this problem. All ranking factors will remain intact and your existing Google PageRank will not be affected. Your mobile version is exactly the same website as your desktop version, just configured to deliver the best possible content and user experience for mobile devices.
5). User Experience
Google may be the voice of reason when it comes to search, but ultimately your users are the ones who decide whether your website will sink or swim. Your website may have the best content in the world, but if it is unusable, then your users will slam the door and never come back. User experience is becoming a much large ranking factor than it used to be, and your ranking will be at least partly defined by the experience of your users. Your bounce rate, time spent on each page, number of pages visited and overall user experience are all pieces of data that Google will include when ranking your site as a resource for the content you are targeting.
Developing a mobile-first, responsive website is all about user experience. The idea of developing for “mobile first” came about due to the large increase in mobile usage, but also as a concept which focuses on simplifying the user experience. A well designed responsive website focuses on prioritizing content, so that the only the key content is delivered to the user. Clutter (which is a problem on many websites) needs to be greatly reduced, ultimately reducing the time needed for the user to locate what they are looking for.
Starting the design of a website from a mobile-first viewpoint means going back to basics, analysing exactly what is needed on the page, and what is surplus to requirements. This is an important shift from traditional design, as it means focusing on exactly the user wants to see, and not what the designer wants to see. The design is therefore built around usability, user experience and goal conversions, which can be hugely beneficial to the success of the website.
Starting from a mobile-first viewpoint is also beneficial when coming to the design of the desktop version, as you have already stripped away the excess and determined the key elements. It is then a case of deciding on exactly what, if anything, needs to be added to the design in order to enhance the user experience.
Responsive website design is now an essential part of any SEO strategy. With the balance tipping further and further towards mobile searches, this is not something that can be ignored without huge damage your business.
Whilst Google dictates many of our moves in terms of ranking factors, we must not forget that it is the experience of our users which ultimately decides whether a website lives or dies. Going forward, user experience is likely to play a much larger role in terms of website rankings. Responsive website design and mobile first is a great place to start, as this encourages us to think about experience first and don’t forget… what is good for our users, is great for our Google rankings!