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Web developers started touting the benefits of the responsive website content since the dawn of smartphones, but it was more for functionality rather than increased visibility. It wasn't until 2011 and 2012 when large companies like Google started promoting the concept that the SEO world opened their eyes to the search ranking benefits.
We believe wholeheartedly in responsive websites for dealers, not just because Google likes them, but because they present a better experience for your customers. Still, the SEO aspect cannot be ignored, so I've put together a small list of reasons that responsive website design is a strong play for improving your organic search engine rankings.
Dealers and vendors can debate about whether Google is truly "promoting" responsive website design or if they're simply listing them as the first option when discussing mobile website interfaces, but one this that Google and Bing have said that cannot be debated is that they like a 1-to-1 page ratio between mobile and desktop pages.
The way that they look at it is this: people will search from multiple devices. Both search giants are actively pursuing a stronger mobile play since more people are doing searches on their smartphones and tablets. One of the biggest roadblocks for them is when a corresponding mobile page does not exist for its desktop counterpart.
With many dealer websites, a page that exists on the desktop version does not exist on mobile. As a result, many websites will redirect to the homepage or present a 404 error. This is not good for the search engines because it's not good for their customers: the people doing the searches.
With responsive website design, a page that exists on desktop will also exist on mobile. It resides at the same URL as well, so there are no redirects to deal with from device to device.
Consistency. That's something that the search engines crave in a world that is moving increasingly towards mobile.
This is the biggest argument that can be made against adaptive websites. Yes, adaptive websites will often maintain a 1-to-1 page ratio, but the content volume and display changes, often dramatically.
With adaptive websites, a different page is delivered to mobile devices than what is delivered to desktops. The URL remains the same, which is good, but a good chunk of the content is lost. This can include the HTML content important for SEO such as headers, body content, links, and images, all of which play an important role in search engine rankings.
One of the big arguments that mobile website companies make is that they simplify the mobile experience and reduce the page size for quicker loading. These are both valid points when it comes to SEO and they were real problems when mobile speeds were slow, but today, more WiFi is available everywhere and 4G speeds are definitely fast enough to prevent any negatives associated with slow page loading.
More importantly, responsive websites viewed on mobile devices are more robust. It's possible to point to some responsive websites in our industry and note that they have too much going on or that the proper resizing of components isn't happening, but our responsive websites are built properly to take full advantage of mobile the mobile interface.
In other words, the complaints made about bad responsive websites are only valid for bad responsive websites. Great ones have made the pages robust while maintaining strong functionality and the ability for visitors to interact easily on their mobile devices.
These are big plusses in the SEO world because of the time on site and bounce rate factors that Google and Bing take into account.
It's hard for many dealers to let go of their attachment to larger automotive website vendors. With some OEMs, it's mandated. With others, it feels safer to work with a company that has thousands of clients rather than one that has hundreds.
Proper use of responsive website design for both it's lead generating and traffic generating abilities is the most compelling argument for dealers to consider in a company. Bigger is no longer better in a nimble automotive digital marketing environment that we're faced with today and on into 2015.