With the changes to Google's search rank algorithm in April of 2015, having a mobile website is an absolute necessity if you want your customers to be able to find you online. There are three ways to configure your website for mobile search: Responsive Web Design, Dynamic Serving and Separate URLs. But which is the best way to go?
Let's unpack each of the 3 types of mobile website configurations to help you make a determination about how you might want to update your website.
The first type is Responsive Web Design:
Simply put, a responsive website uses the same html code on the same URL on any use device, whether a desktop, tablet, smart phone or other. The website can render differently based on the screen size, as detected in the browser. In doing our homework at equaTEK, we learned that responsive is Google's preferred mobile configuration.
Responsive websites use CSS to alter the rendering of the page on the detected device. It's important to note that you can alert Googlebots crawlers with the addition of the "viewport" meta tag in the header of your HTML document. This meta tag will instruct the browsers on any adjustments and scaling needed to fit the width of the device. There is other essential tagging like "picture" tagging that will optimize the display and provide specific image rendering instructions based on the device size.
The benefits of responsive web design are:
- - Enable easier sharing and linking to your content because of the single URL.
- - Enables Google's search algorithm to easily and accurately index your pages and properties rather than having to index a separate set of pages for mobile.
- - Creates development efficiencies because you only need to maintain content in one location.
- - Reduces the probability of mistakes made by maintaining separate websites.
- - Reduces load time because no redirects are in place.
- - It reduces the amount of Google resources needed for the Googlebots to crawl your website. For a responsive website only a single Googlebot user agent is required. This efficiency for crawling could result in Google indexing more of your sites content.
- - It is Google's preferred design configuration.
The second type is Dynamic Serving:
Dynamic serving of content for mobile is similar to responsive in that it uses the same URL regardless of the device, however, it generates different HTML and CSS code versions for different device types based on how the server identifies the users browser.
In dynamic serving the Vary HTTP header tag is essential to assist Googlebot in quickly discovering your mobile-optimized content. This header tag also indicates whether cached content should be displayed or not.
The third type is uses separate URLs:
This means that your website is configured one way using a set of URLs, and your mobile website is configured separately - for mobile - using a separate set of URLs. Often times you will see the mobile website appear like this in the URL: m.equatekinteractive.com for mobile users. This method serves different content formats, and content to different devices. There are certain annotations you will want to include in your website code if you are using this configuration, which you can learn more about by visiting Google's developer site.
This method does tend to leave you open to more errors, as there are more ways to omit important snippets of code that will help Google better crawl your mobile site. Additionally, you are essentially maintaining two separate website, making maintenance less efficient.
The bottom line is be mobile, whatever method you use.