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Responsive web design... any SEO benefits?



7:00 am on Mar 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

We are about to complete a project of implementing RWD, responsive web design, to our websites.
We worked quite hard to bring almost the same content for every screen size. The only differences are in content presentation were with tiny pixel screens (lower than 320px) we have no choice but to remove one of the sidebars.

My question is - Does any webmaster who accomplished RWD has seen any SEO benefit? Such as -
1. Better site performance for mobile users, tablets and other visits from small desktop screens - page per visit, time on site, BR.
2. More traffic from Google (well, I doubt. At this point of time! But shouldn't they, soon? :-).
3. Conversion rate increased.
A note - Google Adsense (and many other ad networks) has yet to provide a solution that supports adaptive ads. I think this puts many webmasters on hold.


8:46 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

many "SEO" elements are going to be stripped out in favor of "bare bones ease".

Why would you do that?

I didn't strip out anything, but some elements may not be visible to all visitors but I'm not sure Google is smart enough to know the difference at this point but I certainly wouldn't sacrifice what you would normally do to make a website rank for the desktop just to incorporate RWD into the site and I certainly didn't do it.

Maybe I'm not sure what exactly you think you're sacrificing SEO-wise but a site that fits all sizes doesn't have to look or present all the same stuff for all sizes and still be appropriately effective for the user and SEO from my experiences.

As a matter of fact, I found the clean HTML 5 and CSS3 separation without all the extra HTML baggage of previous sites seemed to rank better and Google 'got' the topic easier with less noise in the code. Making sure it validates cleanly may also be a factor as all my new sites are validating as 100% squeaky clean HTML 5 without exception.



9:05 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

Unanswered question: Is there one underlying index or two?

Look up searches in gwt and you'll find "web" and "mobile" listed separately. At one time there was a further split-- plain mobile vs. "smartphone"-- but now it's just mobile.

Look in logs and you'll find one vanilla googlebot and three mobiles (iPhone, Samsung and DoCoMo). The mobiles only ask for pages, never css or js.

Clearly the information is being collected separately. Is it also being processed separately?


9:44 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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With tablets and phones sales skyrocketing and exceeding new desktop purchases you should damn well be designing for RWD if you expect to survive at all!

Why do you create a different / RWD design for a tablet? Seems like overkill. As to "survive at all!" - I think this is only true if your original design is cluttered and generally ignores a lot of usability issues like "mystery meat" navigation that only appears on rollover and the like. There's a lot of these sites about, and they will likely be a nightmare in a small screen. If your site design is already simple, it should translate fairly well to even smartphones - maybe some small adjustments necessary but nothing more (IMHO).


10:02 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Unanswered question: Is there one underlying index or two?

Here's a Google patent from 2007 that may be relevant to the question. It's inscrutable in many ways (more so than even other patents) but it seems to me to hint at an answer.

System and method for selectively searching partitions of a database [patft.uspto.gov]


10:09 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

<slightly OT>
To add to Teds post ..The "pre sorting" that we have seen since awhile before Panda ( and considerably more since ) is hinted at in there too..
</slightly OT>


11:21 pm on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Iíve not seen any real movement in SEO on pages that were not further optimized. That said, most everything was built better than before. We saw 5% more traffic in the first 60 days. Rankings did not shift strictly due to RWD. All of our pages got 301 redirected from an old architecture to new with a little more emphasis on the file naming and anchor text. The RWD allowed us to shut down our m. site and run from a single code-base (way better for us). We tuned our calls to action and are getting more leads. The redesign included parallelization, minification, open graph tags, css versioning, a smaller image set for smaller devices, smaller videos at different bitrates (adaptive by bandwidth and device), a 50% increase in speed... We could have done all of this on a non-RWD site but wanted to serve mobile users better. We're totally onboard with Mobile First (designing for touch). The RWD retool was a good excuse to break it all down and redeploy best practices. Weíre seeing better mobile use and users like the solution. Conversion is up by 8%.
Five out of 16 of our competitors moved to RWD between 11/2012 and 3/2013. I expect another five to move by December.

We feel good to be with the pack that is leading. I think that consumers can tell the difference between old and new. Jpeg-heavy designs are out; CSS3 and Font-Familyís are in. Less fluff, more value. Swipe it, tap it, and lastly, click it. Tablets and phones use swiping and other touch-centric navigation elements, and it is hip to use new intuitive app-centric features on the web. In the end, the folks that donít move will be marginalized. Our mobile usage continues to increase.

We even deployed some HTML5ís onpop state stuff that allows a change in the browser url without reloading the page. Simple, but extremely powerful. This saves precious http requests and initial document ready event handling. We're seeing performance gains of 40% with this technique alone. If coded properly, the onpop state feature will allow developers to ajax in content while still having search engine friendly page URLs that are shareable and wonít break the web browsing paradigm.

I'm eager to build something for Glass. Will be be discussing the GlassFirst approach next year?


3:23 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Why do you create a different / RWD design for a tablet?

Because of the difference in real-estate and I don't totally redesign it but navigation may present itself as a drop list instead of a menu on the screen when there's no room for that menu in favor of keeping the content above the fold and content that can still be presented side by side in columns on the tablet degrades into a single column, nothing special or hard. However, the navigation and everything else is always done using HTML 5/CSS to make sure it's fully indexed, no javascript menus or anything that could cause issues.

Not to mention the UI people are familiar with on the phone is slightly different than the tablet and it's nice to present something more familiar for each format to reduce the learning curve of the user and make sure they have a higher success rate using your site on any platform. I've tried a couple of methods and the jury is still out on which I prefer but they both seem to work well in all formats which is all that can be expected.

Designing a site for style over function or cutting corners just because you don't want to test a site in 3-4 layout modes might make your development time lower but it certainly doesn't do your visitors any favors. That's kind of why I'm working with templates where someone else has already went to the trouble of making a very complete and robust RWD template so I can focus on the content and SEO aspects of the site and not worry about such issues of scalability and usability on all the platforms because it's already been done for me by the template right out of the box.

Obviously what I do as a one man show is different than what a team would do but in my situation there's working smart and working hard, I prefer the former as it tends to yield maximum results :)

FWIW, I've got one little site I did for some remote admin code that presents itself as a normal webpage for all platforms but when on a cell phone looks just like an app with an icon menu etc. and it really functionally rocks as a cell phone looking app but that approach which seems intuitive for the little device seemed cumbersome for bigger screens.


7:40 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's already been done for me by the template right out of the box.

I am far from being a web developer but I think it is a must for webmasters to knowing the template's CSS inside out so that you can control every aspect of the site layout when wanting to switch from one structure to another.
It's not a big deal and you learn a lot from the process.


8:28 am on Mar 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Because of the difference in real-estate

For a tablet? Well, all I can say is that my original designs fit the tablets I test on without need for any RWD alterations. I don't have ads, rollover actions, keep my content high up, don't have meaningless imagery etc - not quite Jakob Nielsen in my plain-ness, but not far off. I do think content is the secret to success so long as your layout isn't hiding it, or simply making it hard to digest / read - basically getting to the point, making clear calls to action, removing anything not absolutely necessary. I do have stats for visitors V sales across various devices and I'm not noticing much (if any) difference across the devices. I guess this whole debate centres on - what is your layout to begin with? If it's fairly complex with rollover navigation, top-heavy site structure, ads and images everywhere (which I see a LOT of sites are when I browse the net), then yes - RWD will be necessary for certain screen sizes.


3:33 pm on Mar 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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the confusion arises, because tablets are commonly labeled mobile devices. in fact, they are, but keep in mind, that in terms of screen capacities, even in portrait mode tablets don't differ that much from devices like small notebooks. in order to correctly cater to tablets, it is more important to keep an eye on things like touch gestures and device compatibility features and integrate them properly.

In the past few months, I've switched four Wordpress sites to two different responsive themes that I bought from designers. In one theme, the drop down menus change on tablets. In the other, they don't, and they work just fine by touch. In both cases, the ads don't change at all on tablets.

I totally agree with you that it's really just the phones that need a significantly different layout. The vast majority of my mobile users are on tablets.

And to answer the thread's original question, I'm seeing no SEO benefits or changes at all on any of these sites. I'm seeing a small loss in income because not all of my ads are shown on phones now. But this isn't a big deal because, again, most people don't use my sites on phones.


1:06 am on Mar 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

@incrediBILL - agree with your statements of do or die. But what are the granular driving factors for your remarks?

My sense is that ranking effects will be factored in soon, reflected in overall UI and bounce rates. But probably Google is working out how to maintain consistency in the SERPs with different devices in play.

FWIW I'm seeing no growth recently in tablets, but large growth in smart phones where the bounce rate is highest, for obvious reasons.
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