How Responsive Web Design Can Make or Break Your Google Ranking

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.
— Google

graph-downIn early 2015, Google updated its algorithm to recognize mobile friendliness—also known as Responsive Web Design—as a ranking signal in its search results. That was over a year ago.

If you’ve been doing business since then with a website that is not mobile-friendly, just think how many visitors you may have missed out on in the last year.

It’s tough to think about, right? But don’t panic—there is a way ahead. Let’s take a look at what Responsive Web Design is, why it’s important to your customers, how to tell if your website meets Google’s criteria, and what to do if it doesn’t.

What does Responsive Web Design actually mean?

Responsive Web Design is all about creating the best viewing experience on all devices, from desktop computers to tablets to mobile phones. A mobile-friendly site isn’t just one that “works” on a smaller device—it’s a site that gives visitors the same quality of user experience they would expect from their desktops.

Users of a responsive site should be able to navigate a mobile-friendly site with just a minimum of scrolling and resizing, no matter what size screen they are looking at. In other words, none of that frustrating pinching and zooming that was required in the past.

Designers who build responsive sites should be able to ensure that all UI elements (navigation, text, images, etc.) automatically adjust to the screen on which they’re being viewed. Thus, it is absolutely unnecessary for you to have two sites, one for desktop and one for mobile. One well-designed, responsive site can handle the load of functioning across all devices.

Does Responsive Web Design really matter to customers?

So let’s say you have a site that functions well on both desktop and smaller screens—so what. Do people really care if what they’re seeing on their phone looks the same as what they’re seeing on their home computers?

Before we address this, let’s take a look at some fun numbers.

• 60% of internet access mostly happens on mobile devices. 1

• “In 2014, the number of mobile users accessing the internet surpassed the number of desktop users.” 2

• “34% of smartphone users go online mostly using their phones, and not on a desktop, laptop, or other device.” 3

• “70% of mobile searches lead to action on websites within 1 hour.” 4

• “People searching online using a smartphone will increase from 800 million to 1.9 billion users in 2015.” 5

• 4 out of 5 smartphone owners use their device to shop. 6

• 91% of small business are not optimized for mobile use. 7

These are some impressive statistics, but they don’t really answer the question of whether or not responsive design matters. We know everyone is on their smartphones all day; we see it happening all around us. But do people care about the quality of what they’re looking at?

• “40% of people will choose another result if it is not mobile friendly.” 8

responsive-devicesYes, clearly they do. And this last statistic was from data mined over a year ago, so you can imagine that the percentage has only gone up as instances of smartphone usage goes up.

So yeah, Responsive Web Design matters. It cannot be overstated how important user experience is to your customers, and therefore how important it is to your website.

We humans are creatures of habit and comfort—we want things to be familiar and easy. We want to be able to sit on our couches and know that we can find what we want on our phones without having to get up and walk over to the desk computer.

And if we can’t do that? We’ll keep searching until we find a site that lets us do that.

The cost of Responsive Web Design vs non-responsive design

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: a responsive website can cost more than a site that is non-responsive. But you know the phrase “you get what you pay for?” When you pay for a responsive website, you’re covered on all devices.

When you pay less for a non-responsive site, you run the risk of having to pay for two websites—one for desktop and one for mobile devices. Plus, you’re paying both monetary and productivity costs, as maintaining two websites takes twice the effort.

So in the long run, investing in a responsive site is the smarter and more cost-efficient decision.

Which operating systems respond to Responsive Web Design?

It’s important that your website function across all devices and operating systems. With Responsive Web Design, your visitors will enjoy a consistent, optimal experience on the device of their choice, whether that’s Android, iPhone, Windows, iPad, etc. Therefore, there is no need to build different versions of your site to accommodate different devices, which again, saves you both money and effort.

Back to Google and its search results…

Now that we’ve seen how essential Responsive Web Design is to user experience, we can understand why it’s so important to Google that mobile-friendly sites rank higher in search results.

What does Google consider to be a mobile-friendly site? Here is a list of criteria:

• No scrolling or zooming required in order to read text
• No use of Flash or other software that is uncommon to mobile devices
• No placing of links next to each other so it’s difficult to click the one you want

devicesSites that meet this criteria receive a “mobile-friendly” label from Google, meaning searchers who are on mobile devices will be able to see if a site is responsive prior to clicking on it. If you’re searching on your phone, which are you going to choose: the site with the mobile-friendly label, or one without?


This is why it’s so crucial your site meets Google’s criteria for that “mobile-friendly” label.

So does YOUR site pass Google’s mobile-friendly test?

Time to check if your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test. Running it through this testing tool will tell you whether or not you’re still showing up in mobile search results.

Did you pass? Congrats!

If you didn’t pass, Google will recommend improvements you can make to your site. You can use your Google Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.

Or, you can avoid headaches by hiring an experienced designer to assist with your Responsive Web Design needs. We know that this all seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.  Call us today at (559) 697-5363 to see how we can help you capture more customers and be more visible on Google by making your website responsive and mobile-friendly.

Responsive Web Design is not a flash-in-the-pan trend: it’s the way smart businesses stay accessible to potential customers. And with only 9% of small businesses currently taking advantage of mobile-friendly design, you have the potential to be way ahead of your competitors on this one.

* * * * * * * * * * * *