If there ever was an optimal time to make the switch to responsive design, that time is now. On April 21, Google changed its algorithm again – this time giving much more weight to mobile-friendliness as a factor in ranking websites. What that means is that websites Google deems to be mobile-friendly will show up higher in searches than those that are not mobile-friendly.
Whether you understand how Google’s algorithm works or not, you can certainly understand the implications this change will have on search results. As Conor Dougherty put it when reporting on the change in the New York Times, “ . . . websites that don’t meet Google’s criteria will tumble in its all-important rankings.”
One way to prevent (or reverse) a “tumble” for your website is to use Google’s tools to analyze the mobile-friendliness of your site and then resolve mobile-unfriendly issues. Resolving issues could, of course, be very time-consuming and lead to other problems. A better, more reliable solution – and one with additional benefits – is to have a responsive website.
Unlike traditional or mobile websites, responsive sites are device-friendly because they load optimally on all devices regardless of screen size. In essence, they are ultra-mobile-friendly, providing the best user experience for people on any size smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. For marketers, responsive sites have the additional advantage of enabling the creation of specific user experiences that vary by screen size. As I explained in Forbes magazine in March, 2013, a “truly . . . responsive website” can provide the content and experiences users most commonly seek from a site when using a specific device (e.g. using a smartphone to check in for a flight or checking flight status on an airline’s website).
Another advantage of mobile-friendly responsive websites is the ease with which they can be managed and optimized for search. Instead of managing multiple websites for various devices, you have a single point of integration, one content management strategy, and a single set of analytics. Research has even shown that Google “likes” responsive websites because of this unity: there is only one website for the search engine to find.
At this point in time, responsive website design might still seem like an unnecessary investment for a business whose website is already mobile-friendly. But beware. Do not underestimate the benefits of responsive design in terms of search engine rankings, user experience, marketing, and website management. By not utilizing this advanced website design, you could already be tumbling in the search engine rankings and missing out on business opportunities.
I remember showing Bill Siwicki, Mobile Editor for Internet Retailer, his first responsive design website. He was pretty amazed and wrote an article ‘You better know this new term‘ right after our meeting.