Mobile SEO and benefits of a responsive design

  • 1
  • November 7, 2012
Steven Shaw

Steven Shaw

Digital Director

With the ever-increasing popularity of smart phones and mobile devices, it’s essential to consider the use of them in your digital and online marketing strategies, because not doing so could cut out a massive proportion of your potential audience.

The use of mobile devices also has a big part to play on the SEO side of things, certainly factoring in local search intent. Recently, we’ve been asked a lot about the best approach for working with smart phones, so with regards to developing a mobile presence, here are the three key approaches we use to deliver the content:

1. Use the same HTML as the desktop version using CSS to change the look of the site so it’s mobile compatible

This first process is our preferred and recommended route as it means that you are focusing on delivering a consistent user-journey, and you only need to write the content and functionality once.

By considering the device screen resolution from the outset, it’s much easier to identify the key purposes and call-to-action’s on the site, and how you are trying to convert these users.

This approach also means that there’s only a single URL that the visitor needs to remember, and more importantly, only one URL which Google will need to crawl and index. All of the benefits of your SEO work can be realised and shown under one central domain.

2. Serve different HTML using a Vary http header

This is essentially running two sites under a single URL with a cut-down or alternative version to the main site. The issues here are that Google would be seeing the site URLs with two different versions depending on how it’s crawling the site. This can cause duplication issues across your rankings.

3. Different URL

Most of the time, this means using a subdomain such as Personally, this isn’t my preferred option as it means using the canonical tag and alternate tag on desktop pages.

You would essentially be managing two different websites with all the overheads that it brings, and managing more content, more SEO and more assets.

You also have to ensure that you treat Google-bot and Google mobile-bot as any other agent, otherwise you could risk cloaking penalties; this will probably mean making a list of user agents which need regular maintenance to account for different devices.


So overall, the key message is to focus on a single site which can be represented on both desktop and mobile devices without having to alter the key messages of the content. In our opinion, responsive design is certainly the way forward.