How Responsive Web Design Can be bad for SEO

Screenshot_2013-04-08-16-20-16First of all, let me just give a quick example of what Responsive Web Design is before saying how it can be a problem for SEO. This is where a website sends requests to the Web Browser it’s being access on before bringing up the display. It then uses the information gained from the browser to apply a certain layout to the site. So for instance, the website will send a request to the browser to which the browser will respond with specific information such as browser used: Google Chrome, Window size: 400×600, Device Used: Mobile phone, OS: Android 4.2, the website will then display the mobile version of the site.

As the website is responding to the specifications of the browser, this is what makes the design of the website Responsive.

So, how could this be bad for SEO? Lets take a case study and look into that using Microsoft as an example.
Everyone knows who Microsoft are so you’d think that being one of the largest computer companies on the planet, their website would be working perfectly and everything would be in place right? Wrong!

One of the most popular sections of this website is the downloads section. Obviously I don’t expect to download Windows on my Android phone, but surely being an award winning responsive website it should recognise I’m on an android device and offer me relevant results?

I thought I’d try this out by selecting the menu (The three lines and three dots next to the search glass) and selecting “Free Downloads” from the menu, I find myself navigated to a less than helpful place on the site. The page that renders is the full desktop site with the very bold heading “Get the Most out of your PC”. This website has already shown that it knows I’m on a mobile device, so why would it suddenly promote the desktop version of the site to me?

Clearly something has gone wrong here but it’s not just Microsoft who haven’t yet perfected Responsive Web Design. Starbucks are another company who have given responsive design a go and fallen slightly short. If you conduct and internet search (AKA “Google it”) for “Starbucks Coupons” then you are taken to the Starbucks site. Again it’s all very nicely presented, however when you try to download the voucher, you’re asked to connect your printer as if you’re on a Desktop computer.

This doesn’t make sense as I’m clearly on the Starbucks site that’s designed for Mobiles yet it’s asking for me to connect my Printer?

Now let me just get something straight. I’m not saying that Responsive Web Design is a problem for SEO, I’m merely saying that it can be a problem in some cases. That’s why the examples above are case specific and I’ve used them as they’re very high profile examples.

Posted by Greg McVey