Mobile app development and trends in responsive web design will have a notable impact on how users interact with the Internet in the near future. This theory has been widely recognized in mainstream news sources as well as industry experts. The New York Times published a recent article that suggested mobile search will diminish the widespread popularity of Google Search due to the changing face of how users interact with mobile devices. Mobile apps allow users to go directly to the site or service they want. A recent article in the Times described mobile apps as analogous to a “specialty store” and Google Search as analogous to a “grocery store.”
It remains unlikely that users will stop interacting with major search engines altogether. One of the crucial elements to success online is responsive web design. Users expect the same experience when visiting a website from a personal computer as when visiting a website from a mobile device. Different variables including download speed, readability, and overall functionality need to remain consistent. It is no secret that people, including myself, love their mobile devices. Instead of responding to theory, businesses need to respond to their customers. Their customers want to interact with custom apps and mobile-friendly websites.
The Preference of a Professional in the Field
Users demonstrate markedly different behaviors when searching on personal computers and when searching on mobile devices. The entire user experience is different, and websites should be designed accordingly. I have a strong personal preference for using specialty apps on mobile devices over utilizing search engines on a browser or search app. Basically, I prefer the user experience that specialty apps offer. I also have a strong dislike of browsers on smartphones and tablets. The size of the screen does not particularly bother me. I find the overall experience best when using specialty apps that were designed for the user.
Will Specialized Mobile Apps Take Over SEO?
Hummingbird was supposed to be a big blow to SEO, but it wasn’t. Social media was supposed to kill SEO, but social cues only made search algorithms more intuitive. Will mobile apps finally kill SEO?
It is important to notice that the end-user experience has undergone a drastic change when accessing the Internet. It is almost comparable to the change experienced when dial-up connections were replaced by wireless high-speed cable connections in family homes. It is possible that users prefer a faster and more efficient method of accessing online information. However, the core idea behind SEO remains the same. SEO was intended to organize online information in order to benefit the end-user rather than monetize site traffic.
Designing websites around the end-user is critical to keeping search engines alive and well. Sometimes people want to find something that fits within specific criteria in a few seconds. Responsive web design has turned from a trend to a must when building an online marketing presence.
How Does Responsive Web Design Impact SEO?
Responsive web design impacts SEO by improving the user experience when accessing websites from mobile devices. Responsive web design is not based on two different sites that redirect traffic from the same URL based on whether or not the site is accessed from a mobile device or personal computer. Instead, responsive web design allows single sites to adapt to the device the site is viewed on by using multiple breaking points. Designing multiple sites for mobile devices can be seen as advantageous for SEO clients. However, responsive web design is arguably offers a superior experience for the end-user and better site rankings.
A Site with Responsive Design is Positive for Core SEO Principles
The core of SEO has almost always been the same. Search engines have strived to deliver the most relevant and useful content to users. Whereas multiple sites might appear as a good way to boost rankings initially, responsive design can promote SEO efforts by addressing basic SEO principles. The following is a list of the top three reasons why responsive web design promotes superior rankings:
◾Lower Bounce Rates Overall
Mobile device users expect websites to be fully-functional on mobile devices. Sites that are difficult to use or have content that is otherwise difficult to access can promote bounce rates from mobile searchers. Sites must be fully-functional on mobile devices.
◾Access the Same Content on Different Devices
Users should be able to access the same content from the same site on mobile devices and personal computers. End-users have set expectations. It is important to meet expectations regarding access to content. Responsive web design allows users to access the same content from the same URL across different devices.
◾Analytics, Link Building, and Improved Site Rankings
These are SEO basics. A single site with responsive design allows search engines to keep pertinent analytics and SEO signals under a single URL. It is important to make search signals and data analytics count. In the end, it does not really matter if users access your site from a tablet or a desktop. It is still important to keep all data under a single site. Optimize existing tools for big data analysis on major search engines such as Bing.
Mobile Device Users Control the Future of SEO
Fleeting online trends become mainstream for a reason. It is crucial to recognize the impact user feedback has on the online marketing and SEO fields. There will always be a place for SEO, despite die-hard specialty app users such as myself. Responsive web design is the best way to keep user experience positive when browsing the web on different devices. User feedback is more influential to the industry than expert design or projections. In a way, this conundrum is not a conundrum at all:
Users will use what they enjoy most, and user behavior will determine future internet trends by default.
The Bottom Line for SEOs and Internet Marketers
Instead of wondering what Google Search or iPhone users will do next, take necessary steps to improve the end-user experience. Create a responsive site. Create a custom app. Find creative ways to spread the word and boost online visibility. Be proactive instead of reactive. Do not put too much credence in anecdotal evidence. Look at the big picture, and think about where you would like to be online. Think about the user experience first and foremost.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.