Proof that no ranking boost for responsive sites exists in 2017
There are many good reasons to recommend responsive design to a client or to your company, but achieving better search results isn't among them, argues columnist Bryson Meunier.
Let’s put the mobile configuration debate to bed.
For those of you who haven’t been following closely, the industry discussion about mobile design options involves whether it’s better to use responsive web design, adaptive design or separate URLs to achieve better search rankings.
Because responsive web design is Google’s stated preference, many SEOs assume that it is always the best choice for SEO. I have on many occasions questioned this assumption, but, for many, the question remains.
Google has said that there is no special ranking boost for responsive sites, but explains that responsive is their preference because it’s easier for everyone. Do we believe them? Let’s test the hypothesis that there is no special ranking boost for responsive sites.
If there were a special ranking boost, I propose that we would see the following:
- When we look at the websites that get the most organic traffic from Google search, the majority of them will be responsive.
- A majority of websites are responsive in 2017, so the percentage of sites with a lot of Google search traffic that are responsive will likely be higher than the percentage of sites overall.
- The websites that get the most traffic from search will have a higher percentage of responsive sites, as opposed to separate URLs or adaptive sites.
In order to test this, I looked at the top 100 sites — the sites with the most organic mobile search traffic from Google — according to SEMRush.
After subtracting porn sites, I had a list of 94 sites. I crawled these sites using Screaming Frog, with the user agent set to Googlebot smartphone, to see which of them redirected to separate URLs, and the rest I manually visited to see if they were adaptive or responsive.
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