For as long as Google has been the dominant authority in on-line search,
there's been an entire industry dedicated to improving Google rankings:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists.
The gold rush saw countless businesses and individuals stepping up to the
task of getting websites to the top of Google search results, and for
many website owners, the call of an SEO specialist was an attractive one,
after all, who wants to be anything but #1 in Google search results?
Alas, the SEO industry never enjoyed the best of reputations, as some
"specialists" relied on fear tactics, and resorted to
black-hat techniques and strategies to deliver their results.
One popular strategy was link farming, where websites filled with nothing
but links pointing to one another popped up all over the Internet.
Keyword stuffing was another popular technique, resulting in web pages
repeating the same word or phrase over and over again, but not really
providing any useful information to the searcher.
The consequence of such tactics was of course to lower the quality of
A search for "Accountant Melbourne" for example, could return a website
for an Accountant in Sydney that had taken on the services of an SEO
specialist that was targeting (hi-jacking) the search phrases "Accountant
Sydney", "Accountant Melbourne", "Accountant Brisbane", etc. Not very
useful for someone in Melbourne searching for a local accountant.
So the eternal struggle between Google and SEO specialists began and has
raged ever since. Google continuously modify and update their search
algorithms to ensure that their search results return the most meaningful
or useful websites being searched for.
Google's efforts have made it increasingly difficult for SEO specialists
to make a living so perhaps it isn't surprising to see that the use of
misleading information is sometimes used by SEO practitioners in an
attempt to scare website owners into paying for SEO services that they
don't fully understand.
One of our many valued clients, a Sydney based professional service
provider, asked our opinion of some e-Mail marketing material they had
received from a Melbourne based Internet Marketing company.
The e-Mail informed our client that "Google is on the cusp of changing
its algorithm to favour responsive sites!" and went on to state that "On
April the 21st, Google will change its algorithm to focus on
mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.".
The e-Mail then went as far to say "If your website is
NOT responsive, you WILL get left
behind." (bold and emphasis not added, it is exactly as it was in the
The e-Mail then briefly explained what a responsive website is, and ended
with "Get in touch with us before the algorithm changes on April 21st to
find out how we can help you create a responsive site. The investment is
worth considering if you want to be found online and generate optimum
The e-Mail contained a link to back up it's claim that "Google will
change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking
signal", which pointed to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, an article
titled "Finding more mobile-friendly search results".
The article does discuss how Google will be expanding their use of
mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal which will affect mobile
searches, making it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages.
The article then offers steps what website owners can follow to make
their website mobile-friendly.
Strangely though, the article does not once mention the word
"responsive", or mention anything about the explicit need for a
responsive website to meet their mobile-friendly requirements.
We tested several of our non-responsive websites in Google's
Mobile-Friendly Test, and all passed with flying colours.
We contacted the Internet Marketing to query their statement that a
website MUST be responsive to ensure that it is
mobile-friendly, and their response was that it was only an opinion that
a website does not need to be responsive to pass the mobile-friendly
test, and they did not wish to discuss this opinion with us.
It was also recommended that we do some more research into the topic. So
A Google search for "does google favour responsive websites?" returns
many recent blog articles with titles stating that Google does indeed
favour responsive websites. Upon reading such articles however, you find
that the term "responsive" is quickly replaced with the term
Not one article showed any evidence that a website that isn't using a
responsive design would be affected, let alone penalised by Google's
To say that "Google favours responsive websites" gives the impression
that having a responsive website will provide an SEO boost, and deliver
you a higher ranking in their search results, which just isn't true.
The statement is misleading, unlike the statement "Google favours
mobile-friendly websites", which is completely true.
While a responsive website design is Google's recommended design pattern
(because it reduces the workload for their googlebots), it is important
to note that, in regards to Google search results, there is zero
gain in having a responsive design website over alternative types of
There are many different ways to have a mobile-friendly website, and a
responsive design website is just one of those ways. You could also have
an adaptive website, or a completely separate mobile website.
The simple fact is, you DO NOT NEED a responsive design
website to have a mobile-friendly website, but YOU DO
need a mobile-friendly website to ensure that your website will be
included in Google search results on mobile devices.
Desktop search results will remain unaffected.
Google does not care what type of mobile-friendly website you have. As
long as your website is mobile-friendly, you do not need to rush out and
upgrade to a responsive design website before the April 21st deadline.
The iASP™ system has been providing single-solution,
mobile-friendly websites to our clients since 2006 that don't require
content to be duplicated or for two separate websites to be managed.
So before rushing off to pay top dollar rebuilding your website
unnecessarily, why not get an honest opinion from an honest company about
the best web solution for your business needs.
Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Try Google's own Mobile-Friendly Test or Get in Touch.
Note: * denotes source of misleading information.
Got your own opinion about responsive vs.
mobile-friendly? Do both terms mean the same thing? Let us
know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.