It has been an argument raging for some time especially with the optimization and search marketing communities, should you have a specific mobile site and optimize and market that for mobile users or should you opt to go for responsive web design (RWD) and keep your site on one URL?
For optimization purposes you really have to sit up and take notice when Google passes comment, their share of the market for search is almost a monopoly yet until very recently there have been mixed messages coming from them as to what their views on this debate are.
It really is an important consideration now for all websites because as of February 2012 the Smartphone share of internet users in the USA finally reached almost 50% and this is still growing. Getting penetration right in that market is becoming an essential business consideration.
So, what is Responsive Web Design (RWD)?
In the simplest way, possible responsive web design (RWD) uses fluid layouts. These apply different CSS style sheets based on the screen size of the device that they are being viewed on. Whether that is a Smartphone, Tablet, PC or a widescreen TV, the website will be displayed to fit the device. The alternatives to using an RWD are to have a dedicated mobile site or a mobile app as another option.
Much of the SEO debate was relating to the value of having specific mobile sites designed to service the needs of the growing army of mobile users and then being able to do very specific targeted marketing using search methods to entice that specific audience.
Google & SEO for Smartphone’s
Google is of course way ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest trends and changes that affect search and 6 months ago they released a Smartphone crawler specifically for the task. The question is now that responsive design websites can display your entire site, not just a cut-down or mobile-specific / targeted version, where does this leave us with search engine optimization? Is RWD best or should we stick with mobile sites as Google has a crawler specifically for that purpose?
Research done by leading SEO expert site SEOMOZ did some tests with the new Smartphone crawler and it does deliver some interesting results. They found out that Google will NOT cache the mobile version of your pages and also that currently, Google seems to ignore any content which shows up only for mobile visitors.
Google has given out mixed messages but as of 6th June, they have finally made a more formal announcement and have taken an official stand and you can check out the information here https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ch/2012/06/recommendations-for-building-smartphone.html. They now categorically state now that responsive web design is Google’s recommended configuration, that for many now will finally settle the argument, at least for the purposes of SEO.