Responsive design is one of the most popular website design methods out right now. Users like having a consistent experience across different devices, without having to worry about pinching, zooming, or being restricted to a downsized version of a website. But, going responsive raises some concerns for the SEO professional managing a site.
Bonnie Stefanick explores some of the issues of high importance to SEOs when redesigning a site to be responsive, but before dealing with the questions she separates redesigns into two categories – cosmetic and full redesigns.
The main distinction between a cosmetic redesign and going all the way is URL management. If URLs are going to be changing during your redesign, you have substantially more issues than just updating the appearance of your site. The issues raised by Stefanick run closer to cosmetic redesigns, as complete redesigns have their own, much larger, can of worms to deal with.
Responsive design has its own unique style and appearance, and some times it can conflict with the best SEO practices. Such is the case with the area above the fold. Responsive design relies on negative space and giving elements area to breathe and move, but navigation and critical linking elements often get pushed down by big banners popular in responsive designs.
These large banners designers constantly put in responsive designs lead to important SEO elements being under the fold, only reached by scrolling down to find menus By talking to the designer before the prototype is made and establishing where you main categories are on your homepage, you can avoid losing the SEO elements.
Another issue with the content above the fold in responsive designs is simply that there is no actual content. Responsive design is intrinsically visual, and designers favor the visual design elements over delivering content directly to users. Search engines notice when none of your content is above the fold, and can rank sites differently for their efficiency in directing users to the content they are trying to reach.
There are plenty of other major considerations for responsive redesigns. Clear communication with designers through the entire process can help manage many of them, but you will also have to pull your own weight to make sure your new design is working as well within your SEO strategy as your last design.