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Transition to Responsive Design - does Google understand?

 6:02 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am redesigning one of my main sites. It’s been up for around 11 years now and needed a major revamp – on many levels. I am using a popular CSS + Javascript framework to assist me with the re-design which is making my life a lot easier and saving me lots of time.

The site will be responsive and show varied content depending on the device that is making the request.

My question is, to what extent does Google (and Bing etc) understand about the fact that the site is responsive? For example, my source code will have a few examples of duplicated content – where only one of which will be shown (depending on the device). This is to ensure the best possible user experience.

Am I heading for a penalty – or do the process this like they should do? I understand they advocate responsive designs, but do they do their part of the bargain?



 6:41 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google knows from responsive design; most of my sites are responsive now and they're doing fine. Better, even.

You have to show Googlebot the same content you show the users, other wise you risk being dinged for cloaking.

But with responsive design, it should be the same content, just different CSS. If you are actually showing different *content* that could be an issue.


 6:50 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

The page content would not change. This would be consistent on all devices.
What would change would be certain navigation, i.e. a cut down version of some navigation on a mobile device. Or another example is that I have created a tiny footer for the mobile device – where the full version would contain extra images etc.

Does that make sense?

The point being – the ‘minimal versions’ would be a subset of the full version (but not the actual content sections).


 7:15 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think I have approached this in the wrong way.

To avoid getting 'dinged' for cloaking - this needs to be implemented by having no extra source code for different devices, but as you say, 100% controlled by the CSS by only showing what is needed for each device.

Thanks netmeg


 7:22 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

The point being – the ‘minimal versions’ would be a subset of the full version (but not the actual content sections)

I am doing this. Is it cloaking? Not by my interpretation (but of course, I don't make the rules). The full site as seen by desktop viewports is available to Googlebot, I just knock a couple things off the menu for smartphones, because I don't think people on phones need or want them (and it gives me room to make the menu a little bigger) So far I haven't had any problems with Google. But it's not like they ever told me it was okay, either.


 10:58 pm on Aug 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

You get separate visits from vanilla googlebot and googlebot-mobile. I'd expect them to compare notes, wouldn't you? Same words, different layout: Check.


 7:47 am on Aug 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Are you sure you are not expecting too much? ;)


 10:59 am on Aug 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google understands responsive design just fine.

There is no risk of cloaking unless different content was being served to Google vs a regular user.

Serving different content based on device is not cloaking. If you're serving Google mobile bot the same content you'd serve an iPhone, then that's fine.

Unless you're serving Google different content, you have nothing to worry about. More features on a desktop? That's fine. Less code via mobile? That's fine.


 11:06 am on Aug 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is the Matt Cutts video on this:


In the video he confirms that a problem will only occur if you serve G different content to that served to users.


 11:56 am on Aug 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you see any issues let us know and then we'll take that, debug it and make sure it works better for everybody"


At least this video confirms that duplicate content can be an issue. ;)

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