“Google’s algorithms are constantly changing.” This is far and away the most over-used phrase in our business. This rang true over the last week, when Google (through webmaster trends analyst Pierre Far), provided webmasters with some rare tangible advice for its ever-evolving SEO algorithms: When it comes to mobile devices, responsive is king.
So what does this mean exactly? A responsive design, for the uninitiated, is one that automatically changes its CSS (format) based on the size of the device it’s being viewed on (meaning the website will look different on an iPhone vs. an iPad or a Macbook.) The reason this is important is that managing a site that has a responsive mobile version, means only managing ONE site. The other options that have been popular in the past (the most common being to redirect a site to an “m.” version) force the webmaster to deal with issues of both ensuring the website-mobile redirect is working properly as well as constantly evaluating whether they are losing search rankings due to the “m.” mobile version cannibalizing the normal version’s search engine value.
Google also recognizes the option (in lieu of a responsive mobile site) of developing a device-specific HTML version of your website (where a website will display differently on, for example, an iPhone versus a Samsung Galaxy). The specifics of how to implement this can get fairly technical (Searchengineland has a great summary of it if you’re geek’d into this.) The bottom line here for either option is that if you’re serious about mobile SEO on your website, looking into one of these is an absolute must.