What type of mobile solution is best for my business and what does Google have to say about it?
I recently attended a webinar with Google that discussed mobile and the impact it is having on businesses around the country. A question that continued to come up throughout the webinar and during the post-webinar Q+A was the question about mobile’s impact on SEO.
In general, Google supports two different types of mobile optimized websites, which can be configured in one of three ways.
The first approach is called Straight to Mobile (STM). STM is the creation of a separate mobile website for anyone accessing your website from a mobile device. This digital property is designed and developed to speak directly to the mobile audience. It takes into consideration the psychology and behavior of a mobile user. This approach can be configured in one of two ways; by creating a separate mobile URL or by serving different (mobile) HTML on the same URL. In both of these applications the development team would create a specific mobile website and utilize a redirect to serve the appropriate website by determining what type of device is being used. According to Google, as long as the website is optimized for mobile and utilizes pass through redirects (i.e. you don’t just redirect to the home page) then there is significant SEO value for mobile search.
The second is Responsive Web Design (RWD). RWD is a method that makes management of the site easier (due to a single code base) but often leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the user experience. When using RWD, the website adjusts to various screen sizes to deliver desktop content reformatted on mobile devices. Developers utilize proportion based grids and flexible images (amongst other things) to pack everything into a smaller screen. Since all desktop content is squished into a mobile view and there is no need for redirects, a responsive website should have about the same SEO impact as desktop.
So which one is best for my business?
If you built a straight to mobile website and a responsive site and put them head to head, you would learn the following:
- your straight to mobile site would outperform your responsive site and deliver better results because it was designed with the mobile visitor in mind
- your responsive site would be easier for you to administer, as you have only one set of code to work with (however, if you have a custom CMS then all things would be equal in this case)
- either work well with Google and rate well with SEO when done properly
The reality is that unless the burden of changing pictures in two locations, or changing text in two areas out-weighs the positive results you get from straight to mobile sites, then responsive is not the way to go. When you create a responsive website, you have to make compromises that jeopardize the results of both sites. As our CEO, James Ramsey says, “When you go responsive you get a car-boat, which is neither a dependable car nor a sea-worthy boat.” When you create a website specifically for mobile, you create the best possible mobile experience without having to make concessions.
Having your team create the best possible experience for each type of device, concentrating on a specific outcome when building a website, and creating a device specific environment that is conducive to your visitors taking action is the best choice.