Responsive web design is being hailed as the end all, be all solution by several web design professionals. This is no huge revelation when factoring in its ability to effectively address the conundrum born from such a wide variety of web-enabled devices. With that said, this trend is proving to be one of those things with no middleground. People either strongly recommend it, or disapprove. Those who are against it are probably familiar with some, if not all of these SEO burdens responsive web design brings to the table.
1. Structural Issues
On the web, marketing and SEO objectives are generally easy to align. As a result, it is possible to implement features designed to captivate the visitor on top of optimized content geared to attract the search spiders and get the visitor their in the first place. The very nature of responsive web design can present a situation where you literally have to choose one or the other. So if you’re putting the spotlight on certain components, be it an app or even a web form, it could come at the sacrifice of your SEO or marketing value depending on your site structure.
2.The Speed Dilemma
You probably know that speed is among the many factors Google looks at when evaluating the search value of a website. What that means is that if your pages are slow to load or crawl in general, it’s going to cost you in the SEO department. It only makes sense in the eyes of Google because a slow page obviously shouldn’t wield the same value as one that greets the visitor with a fast and optimal experience.
Responsive websites generally run slower than sites that have specifically been designed for mobile users. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact they are usually rich in code and content, which gives the browser more to process. Because of the speed aspect, businesses have come to appreciate having two separate versions of their web destination – one that caters to traditional computing devices that handle huge chunks of content with relative ease, the other stripped down and optimized to run fast on sensitive smartphones.
3. Lack of Keyword Variance
The desktop web doesn’t fully port over to the mobile version in the way of performance or SEO value. In regard to the latter, it means that the same keywords that have clout on PCs don’t always produce the same visibility as those used on mobile devices. This puts responsive design, which is designed to deliver the same content, keywords and all, to every device platform, at a disadvantage right off the bat. As a result, you may once again have to make a sacrifice, this time choosing where you want the most visibility.
4. URL Modifications
Responsive design eliminates the need to have two separate versions and two separate URLs for your site. This may seem like a good thing on the surface, but it can actually be detrimental from an SEO perspective. URLs play a huge role in the optimization process, in terms of both indexing and ranking. So whenever you alter them, you run the risk of hurting your position. Tweaking a URL is one thing. Getting rid of it is an another.
5. The User Experience
The user experience has a bigger impact on SEO than you can ever imagine. Let’s say your website is known for its popular Java-based social game. In this case, responsive web design can prevent the user from enjoying the experience they came for in spite of your solid SEO efforts. For example, visitors with devices that struggle to render Java could have a difficult time with the game, despite it being at the top of the search page. This could in turn, result in quick departures that impact bounce rates and negatively affect rankings in the end.
The Big Picture
An article on Search Engine Land tells us that sites with responsive web design are losing over 10% of total mobile web. That number, as many statistics are, is rather misleading, but it should be viewed as an eye opener nonetheless. The fact remains that while the responsive concept will in most cases bolster your SEO efforts, it can also hurt them in others. Therefore, anyone considering this method should heavily weigh the pros and cons and more importantly, devise a strategy that will enable the positives to outweigh the negatives.
About the author:
Aidan Hijleh is a freelance copywriter and serves as the Non-Profit Partnership Liaison for Benchmark Email. Aidan advocates free email marketing services to assist with the flourishing of grassroots organizations.