I’m asked on a regular basis when it comes to revising a web site, what’s the real difference between a “responsive” site and a “mobile version” of your site?
With mobile traffic seeing much more volume during the past couple of years, it’s super important that websites employ a mobile edition of their web content. This is a customized version of your website made just for those smaller screens and faster load time. With wider mobile usage the debate has stared about using responsive design for mobile users versus the traditional mobile sites.
So what’s Google say about it? Does response design or traditional mobile design give you a higher SEO value? Fortunately, Google’s Distinguished big dog Matt Cutts discussed this dilemma in a fresh webmaster help video.
Responsive Design vs. a separate (or converted) Mobile Site
First, quite a few people have questions about what is considered a responsive design. It’s definitely something that’s more modern, and many webmasters still don’t have a a great deal of experience designing in it. However, responsive design quickly becoming the go-to format and is gaining popularity because of the way it naturally scales for any type of display size, whether it’s a desktop or maybean iPhone.
“Responsive design just means that the page works totally fine whether you view the site using a desktop browser or with mobile browser,” Cutts said. “Things will rescale and the page size is going to be taken into account.”
The second common mobile design is simply a lightweight edition of the website, they can be easily read on small mobile screens but without a lot of the elements on a page that take longer to load. It is typically placed on mobile.example.com or m.example.com on the domain.
There are lots of services available that still that deliver on-the-fly versions of your internet site via a pass-through service. “Depending on the user, you would do a redirect, so that a mobile phone, a mobile smartphone, might get redirected to a mobile-dot version of your page,” Cutts said.
Cutts said that both ways of doing it are proper ways of dealing with mobile traffic, and that they have a lot of help documents available to webmasters to ensure they are doing everything correctly.
Cutts Says: Responsive Design would be the Smarter Option
For SEO value, he does point out that responsive design is the smarter way to go for SEO, simply because you can have issues when building a mobile version of the page if you aren’t implementing it correctly.
“In general, I wouldn’t concern myself with a site that is using responsive design losing SEO advantages because by definition you’ve got the same URL,” Cutts said. “So in theory, if you do a mobile version of the website, if you don’t handle that well and you don’t do the rel=canonical and all those sorts of things, then you might, in theory, divide the PageRank between those two pages. However if you have responsive design then everything is handled from one URL, so the PageRank does not get divided, everything works fine.”
The Mobile Site SEO Verdict
There are fewer SEO drawbacks when you build that shiny brand new site with a responsive design versus a lightweight mobile form of the website. However, a mobile site can work just as well as a responsive design, as long as the webmaster utilizes the mobile tools available to them from Google, to ensure there aren’t any SEO problems such as split PageRank or duplicate content issues.