Previously in our Making the Switch to Responsive Design series, we explored the technology, philosophy and user experience milestones behind responsive web design, but there are other, less visible benefits to consider. Although RWD is a visual phenomenon with primarily aesthetic benefits, it also provides a litany of invisible advantages for online merchants. The ROI that these advantages encourage helps offset the cost of the initial investment--both in terms of time and financial investment when dealing with premium themes.
Responsive Web Design Simplifies SEO Campaigns
When determining a page’s rank in the search results, search engines examine far more than just the familiar meta tags. Visitor engagement, unique content and backlinks all impact a page’s search engine success, and a responsive website facilitates each of these elements while simultaneously reducing the effort that a mobile-friendly SEO campaign requires.
RWD improves visitor engagement. Signals from users convey more reliable information about the quality and relevance of a page than a few lines of code could, and search engines carefully weigh those signals.
Inflexible websites designed for desktop users alone frustrate mobile visitors, causing the site’s bounce rate to rise. Although m-dot sites alleviate this problem, they redirect mobile users from the main site to the mobile-friendly one, increasing the load time that the visitor experiences. Each of these factors send a poor signal to Google and other search engines. Responsive websites, on the other hand, boast lower bounce rates and shorter load times, signaling a superior user experience.
RWD avoids duplicate content issues between desktop and mobile channels. Unique, relevant content is one of the most powerful SEO weapons in a page’s arsenal. However, maintaining two websites—one for desktop users and one for mobile users—creates the temptation to use the same content for each. Duplicate content, even if it is simplified or partially rewritten, waters down an SEO campaign, and splitting your effort between two sites often means splitting your success.
Having a single URL and single source code means that a site can display the same content to a wide range of devices without duplicating that content across a wide range of sites.
RWD streamlines off-site SEO. Off-page indicators, such as backlinks and social media engagement, are just as essential to a search marketing campaign as meta tags and unique content. An engaging social media campaign can take months of effort to get off of the ground, and a robust backlink profile can take even longer to begin bearing fruit. Unfortunately, maintaining two sites waters down off-site SEO efforts. When mobile users share mobile links on their social networks and business partners link to the full version of the site on their resources page, neither fully benefits from the implied trust that these two sources are signaling to the search engines.
A single URL consolidates these trust signals, allowing visitors to cast their virtual “vote” for a page through the same links and likes, regardless of their preferred device.
RWD reduces labor requirements and expedites SEO campaigns. By working with a single code base, SEO specialists are able to optimize a single, device-agnostic page for a product or category. As noted previously, this curtails the temptation of duplicate content; more importantly, however, it allows for an expedient campaign across multiple devices. A specialist that optimizes five pages per month no longer has to divide their attention between divergent sites, allocating pages choice between mobile and desktop platforms or—worse yet—ignoring one channel entirely. The undifferentiated code base offered by responsive web design requires half the man-hours to optimize, allowing the site owner to reduce the cost of the SEO campaign or hasten its completion.
RWD mitigates keyword cannibalism. Search engines rank each page of a site separately, measuring its relevance, quality and trust signals apart from other pages on the site. This is why SEO specialists recommend that site owners diversify their keyword pool, focusing on a different set of phrases on each page; repetition of a keyword across multiple pages of a site creates competition between those pages, diminishing the authority of each and causing them to cannibalize one another’s success. Mobile sites magnify this dilemma, with a mobile version of each desktop page fighting for rank within the same keyword pool. By utilizing a single URL, responsively designed sites are better suited for tackling this obstacle.
Responsive Design Simplifies PPC Campaigns
RWD consolidates ad budgets. Separate URLS require separate PPC campaigns and budgets. The ads themselves are not labor intensive to create, but monitoring each campaign’s status, optimizing bids, calibrating keyword groups and testing each ad’s efficacy requires considerable time and effort. Dividing that effort between two sites multiplies both the effort and the risk involved. A single URL, on the other hand, grants specialists the luxury of a unified ad budget targeting a single site.
RWD centralizes landing pages. One factor in both the effectiveness and cost of an ad is the landing page to which it leads. Relevant landing pages with appealing layouts, compelling content and potent calls-to-action not only result in higher conversion rates, they also increase the Quality Score of the page and lower the cost-per-click of the ads that link to them. Maintaining multiple URLS means creating and optimizing a wider net of landing pages, while a single device-agnostic URL allows for fewer landing pages and a sharper focus on their optimization.