During the recent Google Webmaster Office Hours hangout, the question about mobile-only websites was raised and it was discussed whether Google could index a mobile-only website and not the equivalent desktop version. Though the answer to this was yes, it does not mean that this should be considered as a best practice. Trend analyst John Mueller clarified his comments during the hangout to also state that there should be sites that work for the desktop users as well. If a mobile-only website is available, Google will index it instead of picking nothing at all.
Many websites today appear to offer a mobile version only, where it becomes cumbersome to operate using the small mobile screen. This implies that the text on the website becomes smaller and graphics get disoriented when the mobile device is turned around. Often this leaves you only with one option- download the mobile app instead of using the company website. But if truth be told, your mobile device has limited memory space- how many apps can you keep downloading?
Websites on the Internet have a number of characters, the main ones being seen in their design. They can be designed in majorly two different ways: building a site independent of the primary website (mobile only), or by including responsive design principles into the primary website (responsive design).
Develop a responsive website
Google recommends the use of a responsive website. Responsive design is the design of a single website which adjusts the screen size and orientation of content as per the user’s device. For example, a three columned layout may rearrange itself into two columns for a tablet, changing into one column for a smartphone. The responsive design involves a series of decisions taken by the designer to ensure that a user has a seamless experience irrespective of the device he or she uses.
Mobile-only websites can initially be used to obtain flexibility in terms of the overall user experience. It is built as a distinct project which does not affect your primary website. However, some of the major drawbacks of mobile-only websites are listed below.
Drawbacks of mobile-only websites
Once you have this website, you become responsible for updating as well as maintaining two sites instead of one. This will naturally require more resources, both in terms of money and designers. Mobile-only websites also face several SEO challenges. The two URLs are seen as two separate websites, making it difficult for Google to send its bots for indexing.
Today’s marketing efforts are all about linking content on different platforms. With mobile-only websites, it becomes difficult to choose a specific URL for social platforms, emails or comments. Visitors due to organic searches on mobile devices will generally be re-directed towards your website. This will slow down the loading speed of your website, causing yet another challenge for SEO.
Your website is created on the basis of what your audience wants. So unless the audience asks for it, Google does not want you to create a mobile-friendly website. Is your company specifically concerned about where it appears on search engine rankings? If it wishes to rank really high among mobile search results, then creating a mobile-friendly website may be the best practice. It is also said that Google released an algorithm sometime back this year to reward sites with higher rankings in mobile search results.
Overall, it has to be said that mobile-friendly websites are expensive for a company and also can bring down search engine rankings. Keeping this in mind, a better practice is to make use of responsive web design.