It’s no secret that mobile internet use is more popular than ever. Over 50% of web pages are served to mobile phones, and the number is steadily growing each year. The numbers shouldn’t be surprising if you think about your own habits. Many of us even search Google from our phones while looking at a computer screen. Because of the internet’s shift from desktop-centric to mobile-centric, having a responsive design is more important than ever. Once you understand how mobile responsive web benefits SEO and other digital marketing efforts, you’ll realize why it’s crazy to not focus on your mobile site.
It’s important to remember that unlike most things in the world of technology, mobile internet use is not just a trend. Almost everyone has a smart phone, and tablets are routinely being used everywhere from elementary schools to retirement homes. The following image shows the growth in mobile phone internet share each year. Keep in mind that the numbers shown don’t include tablets, meaning non-desktop use is likely over 60%.
Mobile Responsiveness is undoubtedly one of the biggest on-page ranking factors, and responsive web design benefits SEO accordingly.
Importance of Mobile Responsiveness for SEO
We’ve detailed mobile responsive web design many times in the past, but it’s always from a design perspective instead of an SEO perspective.
Mobile responsiveness is one of the few things that Google has directly confirmed, saying that mobile sites are given priority in search. Google Developers has also released its own guide on Mobile SEO, helping webmasters make a transition, if necessary, to a response website design.
Google recognizes that mobile versions of websites are now the primary version. Not having a site work effectively in mobile would be like not having it work effectively on desktop a few years ago. Search engines are all about delivering helpful content, and giving a site that doesn’t work for over half of all web users is far from helpful if you’re on a phone. To respond to this, Google gives significant rankings boosts to pages that are mobile responsive.
Most importantly, with the introduction of mobile-first indexing (explained later), the relevance of your site is being determined largely by your mobile appearance. If you have a poor user-experience, hidden content, or tiny text, you could see a significant drop in your desktop rankings too.
What is Responsive Web Design
Responsive Web Design is a design and development technique which serves the same HTML on the same URL regardless of the specific device dimensions, allowing the page to respond to the dimensions. Because the code is lighter than dynamic serving, you’re able to avoid slowing down the page, and also provide a positive user experience regardless of the device.
This differs from dynamic serving, which uses different HTML but the same URL, and is a big improvement over the old technique of having a different URL for your mobile site. Google says they “[don’t] favor any particular URL format as long as the page(s) and all page assets are accessible to all Googlebot user-agents,” but a responsive design will work much better than the other two options for SEO. With dynamic serving you run the risk of having too high of an HTML-to-text ratio and slowing your site down, while different URLs basically splits your page’s backlinks and user signals in half. You’d also worry about duplicate content issues if you aren’t careful.
How Mobile-First Indexing Impacts SEO
Nearly all websites today use mobile-first indexing, and all new websites are mobile-first.
Mobile-first indexing is not a misleading name. It basically means that your mobile site is the first thing that Google includes in their index, and acts as a baseline for determining rankings. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean your site is only indexed on mobile. Expect Google to crawl your site on desktop as well. Still, your baseline rankings are now determined based on your mobile appearance, so a poor user experience can drastically hurt your rankings even if your desktop site is fine.
Keep in mind that the current indexing method is nothing new, just increasingly becoming the standard. It was introduced in November 2016, further updated in early 2018, rolled out to most sites in mid-2018, and recently became the standard for every new site.
Each year more and more people search Google on their phones, and having a responsive web design benefits SEO even more.
If you don’t have a mobile site, your desktop version can still be indexed. Ideally however, you should never risk your content not being properly read, and should take every precaution to avoid it. The only way to do this is by making sure your mobile site can be crawled.
Benefits of Responsive Web Design for SEO
There are a lot of great ways that a responsive web design benefits SEO and your overall digital marketing efforts. Check out a few of the top reasons below:
1. Ranking Boost
As mentioned above, Google will give you a fairly significant rankings boost in both mobile and desktop just for having a site that is mobile-friendly and tablet-friendly. These results are prioritized, and almost every well-ranking site has a mobile version.
Sites that don’t offer a good user experience on mobile are incredibly unlikely to rank in phone searches, which cuts you off from a lot of potential traffic.
2. Better User Signals
A variety of user signals combine to be a big ranking factor. Having a mobile and tablet version improves these, and will have a big second-hand impact on your rankings.
If a user accesses a site with a responsive design, they’ll stay on the site longer, visit more pages, and are much less likely to leave right away (reducing bounce rate). All of these are signs of a quality page, which search engines will take into consideration.
3. Page Speed
A fast page is a ranking factor in its own right, and also has a big impact on the user signals described above. A page created to run on mobile will almost always load faster, helping the site in a variety of ways.
Google offers handy tools to check your mobile page speed and see if you’re up to par with your mobile SEO efforts.
4. Social Shares
While there’s some debate about whether or not social shares directly impact SEO, increasing a page’s visibility on social media can have great effects on its rankings by obtaining more visitors and increasing the relative importance of your page.
It is a lot easier to share a page to social media on a phone than on desktop, since almost all social media use takes place on phones.
It also allows you to advertise online, as almost on Facebook and Google ads deliver to mobile devices.
5. More Leads/Sales
The ultimate goal of SEO is increasing followers, leads, or sales. Missing out on 60% of website visitors is a terrible business plan, definitely worth the investment to update your site.
Not only will a responsive design allow those 60% of internet-users to more easily find your site, it will also help them navigate your sales pipeline in the way it was intended. Mobile-friendly sites benefits SEO and site visibility greatly, but they’re also great for improving conversion rate on a phone, which helps all your digital marketing efforts.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
A mobile-friendly site is an industry standard that is usually easy to design in any CMS. Whether you use WordPress or even something like Wix, many themes are responsive from the start. This means that it isn’t an extra expenditure to invest in a responsive design.
Having a mobile-friendly design affects SEO as much as almost any other factor, and ignoring it will cause you to miss out on a lot of leads. If your site isn’t responsive, let us help you fix that. We can develop a WordPress design that works great regardless of the device, and is SEO-friendly from the get go. Request a free competitive analysis to get started, and improve your SEO efforts drastically.