Make no mistake about it – 2013 was the year of responsive web design. Instead of creating separate URLs for mobile site as had been customary in recent years, many designers started to use responsive design to create a single version of a website that automatically adjusts to the user’s screen size, platform, and orientation. By creating a website that adjusts its appearance automatically, the need to build an entirely separate version of a site for each platform is eliminated, making things much simpler.
But one of the questions that SEOs have asked repeatedly is “How does responsive design affect SEO?” Well, now we finally have an answer straight from Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam department.
In a recent video, a user submitted the question: “Does a site leveraging responsive design lose any SEO benefit compared to a more traditional m. site?”
Here are some of the things Matt Cutts had to say in response:
“Whenever you have a site that can work well for regular browsers on the desktop as well as mobile phones, there’s a couple completely valid ways to do it. One is called responsive design, and responsive design just means that the page works totally fine whether you access that URL with a desktop browser or whether you access that URL with a mobile browser. Things will rescale…the page size will be taken into account, and everything works fine.
Another way to do it is, depending on the user agent that’s coming, you could do a redirect so that a mobile phone – a mobile smartphone, for example – might get redirected to a mobile dot version of your page, and that’s totally fine as well.”
Matt goes on to mention that Google has guidelines for building smartphone-optimized websites. You can see those by clicking here.
Continuing, he says:
“In general, I wouldn’t worry about a site that uses responsive design losing SEO benefit because by definition, you’ve got the same URL So in theory, if you do a mobile version of your site, if you don’t handle that well and you don’t do the rel=’canonical’ and all those sorts of things, you might, in theory, divide the PageRank between those two pages, but if you’ve got responsive design, everything is handled from one URL, and so the PageRank doesn’t get divided. Everything works fine. So you don’t need to worry about the SEO drawbacks of responsive design at all. You need to make sure that your page works for users and that it’s fast…but I wouldn’t worry at all about responsive design and whether that will hurt you in terms of SEO.”
If you follow Matt Cutts at all, you’ll notice a common theme in most of his responses. It’s all about creating a good user experience. If you focus on doing right by your visitors, everything else will often will into place. If you ignore your users and focus on trying to game the search engines, that’s when you’ll likely find trouble.