4 SEO Benefits of Responsive Web Design

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4 SEO Benefits of Responsive Web Design

With more people using their smartphones and tablets to browse the internet, it has become increasingly important to create a website that works across multiple platforms. After exploding onto the scene in a blaze of glory in early 2012, responsive web design (or RWD) is now firmly established as the best way to create a website mobile visitors love, and has become a central feature of the modern web design landscape. 2013 may have been hailed as “The Year of Responsive Design”, but RWD is far from last year’s news.

In simple terms, responsive design means a website’s pages reformat themselves depending on which device they are being displayed on, ensuring that whether the content is viewed on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer, the website will remain user-friendly. Why has this made such waves in the web industry? This is remarkably different from previous mobile solutions of creating a separate mobile site or a dynamically served mobile site.

But when it comes to SEO, can a responsive layout increase the chances of a website succeeding in the SERPs? (SPOILER ALERT!) The answer is a resounding yes, and here’s why.

Google Loves Responsive

And since Google is the divine being you’re trying to impress with your website, it is wise to pay attention to what Google loves. Google not only recommends RWD as the best way to target mobile users , but also favors mobile-optimized sites when presenting results for searches made on a mobile device. This is especially true when mobile users search for local services.

There is still some debate surrounding the issue of whether a separate mobile website or a single, responsive site is the best route to take, but from an SEO perspective, the latter is generally the better option. Separate mobile websites have their own URL and different HTML to their desktop counterparts, whereas responsive sites use one URL and one set of pages and files, making it simpler for Google to crawl and index content.

One Website, One URL

Building a separate mobile website does have a few benefits of its own, and in some cases creating a standalone mobile version works well. If a website features a lot of content (a news site, for example), a responsive version of the website could soon become the “scrolling version”, with users having to give their index fingers a serious work out just to navigate through the content. This is where a mobile site, with content which has been carefully refined for mobile browsing, can come in handy.

From an SEO perspective, one of the main challenges posed by having a separate mobile site is that you will need to build the authority of this site from scratch, and most separate mobile sites do not rank well in search engines, as they are canonicalized to their desktop counterparts. On the other hand, redesigning your website as responsive will enable you to maintain your backlinks, and will mean that you can focus your SEO on one single site. This means all of your links will be directed to one domain (as opposed to one mobile website and one desktop site), giving your responsive website a boost in the SERPs.

Furthermore, if you have a responsive website, you can build social shares for just one URL, and when the site does get shared, wherever the link is viewed – whether on a mobile, tablet, or on desktop – all of the content will be clear and easy to navigate.

Responsive Helps Combat a High Bounce Rate

Even if a website is sitting pretty in search results, if it doesn’t work effectively for mobile and tablet users, bounce rate will be a big problem. Mobile websites can suffer from a high bounce rate if the content they offer is too stripped down, or too dissimilar from the content offered on the desktop site. Google will interpret this high bounce rate as a sign that a website isn’t offering relevant content to users, which is likely to lead to a drop in rankings.

A responsively designed site combats this problem by presenting all of the same content found on the desktop site, but in a functional way. RWD means that there is no need to compromise on the content you choose to display, this ensures visitors always receive the information they are looking for – which keeps them on page!

User Experience is Enhanced

Websites are essentially a tool for sharing content.  A user-friendly site makes it easier for visitors to find, absorb, and pass on this content. Above all else, responsive design places an emphasis on designing for the user – and with user experience being a big ranking factor, it makes sense that Google is encouraging developers to embrace RWD.

If visitors are browsing a site via their mobile or tablet, they should be able to view all of its content as easily as desktop users. Say you spot something on a website whilst browsing on your computer, and want to send it to a friend who will view it on their phone. If the website is responsive, and has been designed well, the content will work just as well on their screen as on yours.

Responsive design helps modern websites appeal to modern users; users who are increasingly likely to traverse the internet using a mobile or tablet device, but who still expect their desktop experience to be as smooth as ever. Going responsive is the most effective way to make the most of mobile and tablet traffic, and to offer visitors the best possible user experience.


Image Credit: Stéphanie Walter, via Wikimedia Commons

Hayley Francis

Hayley Francis

Content Writer at Creare
Hayley Francis is a Content Writer for Creare; a UK-based web design and SEO company who specialise in helping SMEs to shine online.
Hayley Francis
Hayley Francis

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  • Roy Moses

    I do agree that responsive is better and what if you don’t have it responsive and want to get it looking good on mobile? what can you do?

    thanks for any help..

    • Scott Barton

      Hi, well we have to see what you have got first. Drop me a line at scott@creare.co.uk and we will see what we can do to help you.

  • Bruce Smith

    The does not become the cup, nor an other vessel that it goes into. Rather the water takes the form of the vessel holding it….and so should the Internet websites. The data on the site should stay the same no matter what device/browser you are viewing it with, but rather it should adapt for easier viewing. I hate those sites that slim down and you lose half the content simple because you are on an iPhone.

  • Bj Adkins

    I am a big fan of responsive not only for SEO but also for the cost. You don’t have to design and pay for multiple versions of your site. Granted there are times she a mobile site is required however for most personal and small business sites responsive makes the most sense.

  • Web Design Philippines

    Additional to the above article here are the benefits of RWD (responsive web design):

    * Lesser long-term costs
    * Integration with mobile devices
    * Optimum viewing experience for users
    * Compatibility with a wide range of devices

  • Nathan Brook (@NathanBrook3)

    Insightful post! We are now in the process of switching our website to the responsive design. This is a Complete Guide. Thanks a Lot for it.

  • Edupark

    In today world, responsive design of website helps in generating more traffic which will help in SEO but besides SEO, because of responsive design, site can be opened in any of the device like mobile, tablet at anytime, wherever we are.

    This post provides some detailed information on responsible design and its importance which will be very helpful for in near future.

  • Bank Exams Easy

    Responsive has gained more attraction in website designing these days….! Thus helping in hitting traffic rate high…!

    • David

      I agree, I have been trying to make my website include this over time and it increases traffic exponentially.

  • Paul Tagent

    Although all the sites we do now are “responsive,” we find that this can be restrictive with the design. Elements like making video and imagery responsive can be very tricky to do and can compromise the design of a website.

    • Hayley Francis

      Paul – it is tricky balancing act you’re right. I guess it’s best to take each site individually and decide which approach is best. A design still needs to be spot on, especially when you are focusing on usability!

  • Robert Reed

    Besides the SEO benefits it also helps to increase sales as well. I’ve got some blogs monetized by Amazon products. After changing the design to responsive the sales via mobile devices have increased drastically. I used to have about 10% mobile sales, now it is sometimes over 40%. Responsive design is crucial nowadays.

    • Hayley Francis

      Robert – that’s awesome, and a fantastic example of just how effective switching to RWD can be!

  • Barbara McKinney

    With the increase in Tablet sales and smartphone device use exploding, responsive design is key to keeping up ahead of your competitors and establishing market share.

    • Hayley Francis

      Barbara – that’s true, and I really do believe that a brand/website runs the risk of being left behind if it doesn’t bear tablet and mobile visitors in mind.

  • Yohan

    I agree with your post about benefits responsive web design. During i handle my client, many people prefer flash website. Google dislike it. I explain to my client about responsive website. What did benefits responsive website for them ? Finally , they agree and follow my suggestion to build responsive website.

  • Frederik

    we’re not looking for clicks.we’re looking for visitors who browse through our site and get to know who we are. Remember that most people will leave after one glimpse at your site. It takes something special to keep them interested, let alone willing to buy your product or service.

    • Hayley Francis

      Frederik – I agree, and I think a responsive website stands a much better chance of engaging visitors and making them want to stick around to see what you have to offer. Better user experience = better conversion rate!

  • mary jhon

    Nice post….I am SEO and Web designing expert and i know importance of responsive design these days. I always suggest my clients go for responsive one.

  • Aarav D

    Responsive website design is the activity of developing a website suited to work on all device and every screen sized, no substance how big or small, smartphone or desktop. Now the growth of mobile web use is additionally so much out pacing of generic web usage growth.

  • Mitchell

    This article is spot on with the responsive design benefits! These four tips appear so simple, yet they can do so much for your website. We all want our website to be found in Google searches and converting over to responsive design is a huge step forward. I totally agree with the point of making the user experience more enjoyable. There is nothing more frustrating than being on a website on your phone and having to turn it sideways and zoom in and out the whole time. It is much more pleasant when it functions as if you were on a laptop.

    • Hayley Francis

      Thanks a lot Mitchell! Glad you agree – and you’re right, there’s nothing worse than struggling to see something on a mobile when it should work seamlessly!

  • TruVisibility

    Responsive design is a must! This is one reason we specifically built a product that works on all browsers and devices, because it isn’t a nice to have requirement. Excellent post!

  • Ravi Chauhan

    I agree with this interesting post, Responsive web design help to users and Google loves user friendly website. It is also Increasing your reach to tablet and mobile devices.

  • Sophia Moors

    Really I am swimming in your article, because there is lot of water. I am waiting for designing update from Google’s side.

  • David Brownley

    I think these quotes should be credited to Bruce Lee who first cam up with them.

  • Varun Mittal

    In my view, all blog providers like Google Blogger, WordPress etc. should provide inbuilt facility of Responsive Design.

    • Hayley Francis

      Absolutely Varun – responsive design should come as standard from any good blogging platform.

  • Jeffrey Gibbs

    Hi, Hayley Francis,

    Responsive design is most important for all the websites. When your site is responsive then it is compatible with all the devices and browsers. From that, Website gets the all users from various devices. So, responsive web site design is very useful for SEO.

  • Kal Mokhtarzada

    Great content, but a few important details missed, irronically. For one, your image is cut off. Second, but extremely important, is that the quote is NOT from Josh Clark, it’s from Bruce Lee. It’s one of his more famous quotes.

  • Tam

    Thanks for sharing useful ideas,

    Benefits of Responsive Web Design are clear. Today, most people use mobile devices to surf web. If your web design is responsive, that is an advantage and great experience.