How Responsive Web Design Boosts SEO Value

By Katrina Lezaic | 10 Sep 2014

It’s time to respond. Google has made it crystal clear that website mobile SERP rankings and traffic will suffer if they have not been upgraded to responsive design.

With more people using their mobile devices to browse the internet, it has become increasingly important to create a website that works across multiple platforms. According to recent statistics from Smart Insights, more than 20 percent of Google searches are currently being performed on some sort of mobile device.

With predictions mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop usage by the end of the year, Google (who had 67 percent search market share last year) highly recommends investing in a responsive website design to ensure traffic can navigate your site easily, regardless of the device they’re using.

Responsive website design enhances user experience on all major devices, including tablets, desktops and laptops, by reformatting the site’s design to the screen size and as a result, it is being incorporated into SEO strategies across the board.

What is Responsive?

Responsive web design was defined by its creator Ethan Marcotte, as incorporating fluid layouts, flexible images and media queries. This means that pages load quickly and users don’t need to zoom in or shrink images or text on the screen. Instead, they are able to find, absorb and pass on content quickly and easily, which keeps them on page.

Simon Collinson

Simon Collinson’s website is a solid example of responsive design.

Statistics show that a positive user experience on mobile devices leads to a 67 percent chance they will use a service or buy a product, while they are five times more likely to abandon the search altogether if they have difficulty.

Responsive Boosts SEO

In June 2012, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Pierre Far, made Google’s preference for responsive web design over mobile templates official. According to Far, using one single URL makes it easier for Google’s algorithms to crawl your site, while reducing the chance of on-page SEO errors. As a result, responsive sites are easier to maintain and typically perform better than a separate, mobile template site.

Google tracks the number of unhappy people that leave a website after only viewing a single page, which can create a high bounce rate and a site that doesn’t rank on mobile searches. High bounce rates are a big headache for Google who factor them in as part of its search algorithm which, in turn, also harms your SEO. Responsive design ensures you keep bounce rate to a minimum and keep on Google’s good side.

Despite market evidence, a recent report released by BaseKit has shown that small and mid-sized businesses are not yet prepared to meet the surge in mobile use. Of the 500 businesses surveyed, only nine percent said they had optimised their websites to make them accessible to smartphone users.

Specialist in Magento e-commerce optimisation Scott Donald of CreativSEO says responsive web design is an essential feature of any e-commerce site, especially if you are targeting younger markets or people who shop on the go. Streamlined check out processes and optimised visual and written content for mobile devices present huge opportunities for businesses to boost sales.

“A lot of online retailers are missing sales due to poor mobile experience on their stores,” Donald says. “With a responsive web design you can not only get more traffic to your site but boost your conversion rate by offering users the best possible user experience.”

A recent study by the Aberdeen Group revealed that websites optimised with responsive web design achieve 10.9 percent more visitors than without. This occurs because Google favours mobile-optimised sites when presenting results for searches made on mobile devices.

“Responsive web design is what Google wants and they reward you with better ranking for mobile searches” Donald says. “Why would Google rank sites highly for mobile search that couldn’t be viewed on a mobile device? If people are looking for the most useful site they want a site that can be viewed on their device and that’s Google’s job – to give you useful content.”

Responsive websites use one URL which makes it easier for Google to crawl and index content as well, while your backlinks are maintained so you only need to manage one SEO campaign. With one domain you also avoid the problem of having to build a new site from scratch for mobile users, saving you money and time.

So how exactly are businesses benefitting from embracing responsive web design?

According to digital designer Graham Miller, when educational publishing company Schofield & Sims designed their new website to be responsive in January 2013, within one month mobile visits were up 16 percent. This increase reverberated into other areas, with a huge rise in mobile revenue of 73 percent.

Here are a number of companies that have also benefitted from the implementation of responsive design, and have shared the good news on Twitter.

Harviestoun Twitter

Harviestoun’s website saw a boost of 28% in mobile traffic as a result of implementing responsive design.

Bench on Twitter

Bench has received a boost in conversion rates to the tune of 100%.

State Farm

State Farm saw an increase of 56% in its conversion rates.

 

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