The SEO of Responsive Web Design

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The SEO of Responsive Web Design

“Responsive web design,” (RWD) is a long term for a simple concept—it ensures that your website displays and functions well across all major devices and screen sizes, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, iPads, and PCs.

Responsive Web Design was developed in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte who explained that, rather than creating a single webpage that is 800px across and centers itself on the screen, you could design responsive webpages that are composed of elements that size, shape, and place themselves based on the width of the browser screen. To learn more about RWD and how it works, see this RWD overview by

Responsive web design began evolving from a “nifty idea” to popular practice following Internet reports and trends that projected that by 2013, mobile Internet users would outnumber desktop users. Fast forward to next year, it’s predicted that 1.9 billion mobile Internet users will surpass the 1.7 billion desktop and responsive web design will officially have gone from a “nice to have” feature to an “essential option” for businesses.

But market demands aside, adoption of responsive design within your digital marketing strategy can deliver more than improved engagement, page views, and business leads. In fact, RWD has also proven to be beneficial for your SEO, too. To find out why, and learn more about RWD, Search Engine Journal sat down with Murad Bushnaq, founder and CEO of Morweb CMS, to talk about present and future of responsive web design.

Newlands: Murad, your company knows a thing or two about responsive design doesn’t it?

Bushnaq: Well, yes. Morweb is a platform for publishing websites with responsive designs that automatically optimize for desktop and mobile devices. It’s what businesses need to help increase ad revenue, traffic, and conversions.

Newlands: So, has the practice of responsive design grown from neat idea to an essential strategy?

Bushnaq: It does if you’re talking about advanced, industry-accepted, web design that’s relatively affordable to the masses. If you’re a small business, you’ve got to ask yourself how much revenue you may be losing in mobile traffic that goes elsewhere.  SmartInsight’s latest mobile study on smartphone vs. tablet vs. desktop share of audience for large eCommerce brands shows over 20% of web hits from mobile devices. And in Q1 2013, the report continues, tablets exceeded traditional desktop devices for conversion rates for the first time.


Taking that information into consideration, mobile means many things for content marketers. It means you need to create content that works across all devices—iPhones, tablets, Blackberrys, you name it, and your site should work on it. That means that when it comes to designing a website, it’s no longer just about the original design, it’s about the ability to update sites and retain the responsiveness.

Newlands: And what’s it do for Search Engine Optimization?

Bushnaq: Well that’s where it gets really good—it’s the icing on the cake. If you’ve done responsive design right, you’re keeping your mobile viewers on page and engaged. The icing is responsive design’s SEO benefit, and I like to think of it in terms of three points.

  1. You can no longer ignore your mobile site—Because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, it’s easier and more efficient for search engines to crawl, index, and organize content. And, most importantly, independent of device. That’s why you can’t ignore it. In fact, Search Engine Journal was one of the first to note how Google refers to responsive web design as its recommended mobile configuration and even industry best practice.
  2. Streamlined SEO—The alternative to a responsive design is to create separate websites for separate device types, or a mobile app that has no SEO value. Rather than having several sites to maintain, a single responsive site contains your SEO through multiple web instances.
  3. And still, mobile-specific keywords can be incorporated into a responsive design site as well. What’s more, your backlinks stay the same.
  4. Higher local engagement—Ever tried finding local pizza on a smartphone? Any time you force your web user to zoom, you’ve failed. Local search results will try to give you the local pages that are most easily accessed via smartphone. Having a responsive design site will keep you at an advantage.
Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands FRSA is an entrepreneur, investor, business advisor and speaker. Newlands is also an adviser to the Draper Nexus ... [Read full bio]