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SEO concerns about moving to a Responsive Design site



1:44 am on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Our business lost a lot of traffic recently via our feeder sites, but our main business site is growing, and we've even seen improvements in the traffic etc.

At the moment, it's a flat HTML site that we haven't updated for years (we have updated the content, not the site).

We have been working on a responsive design (Google's "preferred mobile implementation", and we have also made a Wordpress template and moved all of the site content to the new site. We have made sure that all of the new page URLS and meta titles are exactly the same as the current site.

Our plan of attack was going to be to replace the current site with the new Wordpress driven site in one go, cross our fingers and hope the best. The new site will be minified and optimized to be much faster and built to modern standards. Overall you would say it's a massive improvement.

We are worried that at the page level, there might be differences in the markup that may adversely effect the sites ranking. Because our business site is the only site that is the only site that is bring us in any traffic at the moment, we are worried about switching everything over to a responsive site.

One suggestion that has been floating around would be to move the new responsive wordpress site to m.domains.com and set up mobile redirect so that only mobile visitors would see the new version of the site. What does Webmasterworld think about this approach? Any other advice or experiences from people who've been through the same process would be much appreciated....

I'm sure there are a lot of small businesses who might have the same concerns as they are quickly trying to adapt to a world of mobile browsing...


4:39 am on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

As far as I know responsive design uses javascript and Google doesn't index anything within that javascript [support.google.com...] so there shouldn't be any concern in the page level.

I haven't tried this myself, I would like to hear from someone too who actually have done this.


11:12 am on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A few years ago, I took a massive site (22 million pages) through a full site redesign. We kept the urls, titles, and meta all the same. Pages kept their main content the same. The design was completely overhauled with new header, sidebars and footer. We were very concerned about any SEO problems and made sure we did a lot of QA to make sure the stuff that wasn't supposed to change, didn't change at all. In the end, we pulled the switch, made the change, and Google didn't see to notice at all. Our crawl levels stayed constant. Traffic levels didn't even flicker. This kind of change can done without having an SEO effect.


11:51 am on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Almost all my sites are in responsive design. No noticeable effect on organic traffic (if anything, it's gone up)

You may, however, notice differences in the way mobile users experience your site.


12:06 pm on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member topr8 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>>As far as I know responsive design uses javascript

not here, all my new sites use a responsive design that is pure css driven.


4:06 pm on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Deadsea, did you pay at lot of attention to how the DOM? Did you bother with page comparisons at the HTML level? Our pages look very different now (at least to Google).

Also, we not just worried about the responsive side of things, but I guess the fact that we've moved over to Wordpress.

Having said that, the content is all still the same, and the page loading times are about 1/10th what they used to be.


4:15 pm on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Our DOMs were completely overhauled. We moved from a table based layout with lots of inline styling to a div based layout with css styling.

From an SEO standpoint, I was most worried about the position of navigation links within the source code of the page. Would it matter if they moved from the left column to the footer? We did some testing on moving the navigation on a portion of the site before the new design launched and ended up keeping the navigation in the left column.


4:19 pm on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would worry less about the SEO and more about the business. For example, my site historically had registration CTAs at the top of the right sidebar. The standard for responsive themes is to shove the sidebar way down below the content, so my registration rates were abysmal for mobile visitors until I made some adjustments. Just make sure you keep those kinds of things in mind.


8:27 pm on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Why the change to responsive design at the same time as the move to Wordpress?

Two such major changes at the same time will confuse your analysis post conversion won't it? Did Wordpress cause the gain / loss or was it the responsive design change? You will never know.

Make one of the major changes, wait six months and if all is OK go for the second major change - that would be my advice.

I hope you aren't relying on some all singing, dancing Wordpress plugin to convert your standard site to a mobile one.


1:54 am on Jan 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I disagree. I'd do them both at the same time (and since more and more WordPress themes are native responsive out-of-the-box as it were, doing them separately may not even be a reasonable option.


2:21 am on Jan 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi developed the responsive layout first, and then started to move the existing content manually to a new template. It was a hassle, and we decided to try and only touch everything once.

Maybe introducing the responsive template first might have been the best approach after all?


3:01 am on Jan 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

migumbo, you can exp. fluctuations when the site IA i.e. navigation elements, every page's link structure and their anchor texts. etc., change. As long as there is no major change to these along with the content, Google might not notice the change.


5:06 am on Jan 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i think what @migumbo is more concerned about is the DOM ang page html/php level with a flat html site and the responsive-plus-wordpress site. for me if the navigation links, sidebars, footers will be all the same with the new responsive-and-wordpress site with the old one google wont notice, as for my experience with moving flat html sites(with over 15k pages) to mambo(it was mambo by then 2004 before we move it to joomla! in 2007) it traffic was the same. having the exact same method of keeping the exact url and metas from the html site to the mambo site. no traffic difference based on the cPanel stats(we dont have google tools by then). so on my experience in addition to as what @louieramos mentioned about js; the li's and ul's in the navigation wont matter to google even completely and differently implemented in a new site. IMO, what google will give weight is the links/url's contained in the navigation and NOT how the navigation was implemented(pure css, suckerfish, etc)

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