Google, SEO and Responsive Websites Vs. Mobile Websites

By Itai Sadan

 

April 2, 2015 *UPDATE*

Google has announced from April 21, 2015, on, it will begin taking what it determines as mobile-friendliness into account as a mobile search ranking factor. In Google’s own words:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” – Google Webmaster Central Blog

This means a mobile or responsive site are now essentially mandatory to show up in mobile searches. See this blog post to find out all the details of Google’s latest update and how Duda adheres to it.

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On August 12, mShopper® issued a press release and petition asking Google to reconsider its position on Responsive Web Design (RWD) and its impact on mobile commerce.

Specifically, mShopper® appears to be concerned that Google has chosen to give SEO preference to sites that use RWD versus mobile-specific (m.domainname.com) websites. Understandably, this has prompted a lot of questions from business owners, web agencies and the media, and I’m going to try to address those here.

Does Google Give SEO Preference to Responsive Websites?

Google has said publicly that they would prefer all sites be responsive websites. However – and this point is critical – Google has also made clear that their search algorithm doesn’t care what type of mobile website you have (responsive website versus dedicated mobile website). What Google does care about is that you HAVE a mobile-friendly site and want to give a good experience to those users. They have little preference between responsive, dedicated mobile or dynamic serving, as long as it’s set up correctly.

In fact, on their official Webmasters page, Google gives explicit instructions for Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites and lists responsive design, dynamic serving and dedicated mobile websites all as acceptable options.

Further, many large and well-known brands such as Gap, Wal-Mart and Nike use dedicated mobile websites. These sites offer a seamless user experience, including the ability to purchase products from the mobile site. It’s unrealistic to think that Google would choose to penalize these brands, who also spend significant money on Google advertising, simply for choosing a dedicated mobile website over a responsive one.

The bottom line? As long as you’ve built your mobile website correctly, Google won’t give preference to a responsive website.

What Type of Sites are Duda Sites?

Duda offers two types of sites, depending on your needs. DudaMobile sites are mobile-specific sites and are technically optimized for the criteria that search engines evaluate.

DudaOne sites are more than just responsive. Duda implements a combination of responsive templates with dynamic serving. Dynamic serving means that all of the assets of your site, optimized for various devices, are stored on a server and only the assets appropriate for a specific device are delivered when a user visits the site. This offers many huge advantages over other types of responsive websites where all site elements must be loaded for each device type. Without dynamic serving, mobile phones are often left downloading large image files meant for desktop visitors.

So Which Type of Site Should I Build? Which is Better?

First, let me say that I agree that when Google speaks about mobile websites versus responsive websites, they need a more detailed approach to web design recommendations – and need to be explicit that neither responsive websites nor mobile-specific websites affect search ranking.

Generally, when deciding on a mobile website versus a responsive website, I’d recommend asking yourself the following question: “Am I ready to build a brand new website, or is my current website great, just not mobile-friendly?”

If you’re happy with your existing website but simply need a mobile-friendly version, then a mobile website (m.domainname.com) is probably a good choice for you. By using a product like DudaMobile, you can quickly, easily and inexpensively create a mobile-specific version of your site. There are a few technical issues you should be aware of to ensure you’re not “splitting” your SEO ranking between your mobile website and desktop website, such as including rel=”cannonical” tags. However, DudaMobile manages all of that automatically so you don’t have to.

If you’re ready to build a new site or improve your current site, then a responsive website absolutely makes sense. This way, a single URL will work across devices and you needn’t worry about updating or maintaining both a mobile and desktop version.

While building a brand new website from scratch seems like a daunting task, DudaOne uses an auto-import feature that enables you to automatically bring all of the content from your existing website and social media properties into your new responsive website and our Content Library. This can save countless hours, even days, of organizing page layouts and collecting and storing images, text, phone numbers, etc…

Because DudaOne leverages dynamic serving, you are also able to hide or show specific content based on device type. For example, this means you can show a much more streamlined version with minimal graphics to a smartphone visitor, while presenting more photos and information to someone visiting from a tablet.

Speaking of graphics, dynamic serving also means that DudaOne only delivers the graphics optimized for a specific device. This means DudaOne sites load faster and provide a better user experience than traditional responsive websites – and site performance is a factor Google considers in SEO rankings.

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About Itai Sadan

Chief Executive Officer
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