On June 7th, Google finally gave the world some more insight into what type of mobile website design its mobile crawler prefers. Disagreements over whether a dedicated mobile site separate from the regular site is better than a responsive website design that uses CSS3 mobile queries to convert websites into a custom device-specific format are finally settled. Well, responsive websites are the big winner here. Google prefers that websites are converted into a more user friendly version of the original site, which can be done by screen size, device type, or both. Not a big surprise considering Google’s constant mention of user friendliness every time it makes new rules.
The reasoning behind their decision is that responsive website designs are more user friendly because they respond to the type of device or screen size and adapt the page accordingly. Devices with smaller screens can view text larger while scaling down picture size, which make websites easier to use.
There must be many companies and web developers out there who are not only upset by Google’s preference, but whose clients will have to pay a high price to reformat their websites. There was a rift in the web development and mobile SEO world as to what format Google prefers. Now that it has been made perfectly clear, businesses that paid to have mobile-dedicated websites made will have to eat the cost. If they wish to have a well-ranking site, they will have to pay a developer to insert CSS3 media queries into their website’s design, allowing their one true website to simply adapt to the user’s device medium rather than redirecting the main website to a mobile only website.
Dedicated mobile websites are often the same web address, but with an “m” inserted before the domain name. The SEO concern with mobile-dedicated websites is that they detract from the link juice of the main website. Having to maintain, update, and work on two completely different websites creates twice the work and costs twice as much. This is why mobile responsive websites are a big winner for SEO. Although the initial costs of using the CSS3 media queries to detect the type of device and screen size may be hard to swallow for some business owners, the long-term benefits outweigh the risks. Using a mobile responsive website design is essential for websites and allows a concentrated SEO focus on a single URL.
Google’s official Building Mobile-Optimized Website Guidelines release breaks cell phones into two categories: feature phones and smart phones. Feature phones are simpler, less modern phones that cannot view pages that load on a desktop. Smart Phones have more dynamic reading capabilities, and can read at least some (and some newer versions all) websites that are viewed on a desktop. Although responsive mobile website designs are their first choice, Google also states that if your users could be better served using different HTML.
Google has always based its decisions regarding best practices on one thing: end user experience. The fact is that Google wants to provide the best experience for users no matter what type of phone or device they are using. Whether it’s a Nintendo DS3, an iPhone, or a Nook Google wants you to have the best experience possible.