5 Ways Responsive Design Impacts SEO

Chris Strahorn Uncategorized

Last Updated July 14, 2016

According to Forrester Research, the number of global smartphone subscribers is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2019, crossing the 50% mark for smartphone penetration by 2017, and reaching 59% by 2019. According to SecureEdge Networks, enterprise tablet adoption is predicted to grow by almost 50% per year. Given this, there can be little doubt that a substantial number of visitors who come to your website will be doing so on a smartphone or tablet. That alone should be plenty of reason to implement a responsive design for your website, but when you add the SEO benefits, the case for responsive design becomes overwhelming.

5 ways responsive design impacts search rankings

1. Google prefers responsive design

Google’s website on building smartphone optimized websites says in part, “Google supports smartphone-optimized sites in three configurations: Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device”.

This is Google’s recommended configuration. 

Google’s Think Insights on Mobile reports that 48% of mobile website visits start with a search. Google considers responsive design when displaying search results for users on mobile devices, especially for local searches. So, if you want to outrank your competition, you need to practice responsive design.

2. A poor experience on mobile increases your bounce rate

According to Google’s Think Insights on Mobile, if a user doesn’t quickly like what they see, there’s a 61% chance they will leave and go to a different website. Not only is this disastrous for your conversion rate, and great for your competitors, it counts a bounce and will hurt your search ranking on every device.

3. Responsive design optimizes link building and domain authority

One big reason that responsive design has an advantage over having a separate site designed for mobile, is that having two sites dilutes your link back statistics and domain authority. It isn’t realistic to expect every page that links to your URL to also link to your mobile site. Having one site that serves up beautifully on any device means one URL, so you can focus your domain authority efforts and be much more efficient.

4. Responsive design eliminates the problem of duplicate content

Having a separate site for mobile creates the problem of duplicate content, not only might Google penalize you for this, but it also means that every content change must be made twice. Sites quickly become out of sync, creating a headache for visitors and marketers alike.

5. Mobile is social

Your SEO strategy likely involves content designed to be shared on social media. A recent study by ComScore found that 55% of social media consumption happens on a mobile device. A responsive design provides a great user experience and makes it easy for visitors to consume and share your content on the device of their choice.

The bottom line is pretty clear. Responsive design is the most effective way to provide your users a great experience, while at the same time improve and protect your search optimization efforts. It does take some extra planning and effort initially, but the long term payoff is profound and certainly worth the investment.


Mobile1st is the company behind Mobilizer, the mobile optimization platform. Mobilizer helps companies increase revenue and engagement by enabling them to see exactly what their mobile users see, quickly identify display issues, monitor metrics by device, and optimize the mobile customer experience.