There are several different ways to optimize a website for mobile compatibility, including the use of a separate mobile domain or a responsive web design. While both of these techniques are capable of creating brilliant, fully functional websites that work on smartphones, there are nuances between them that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Why You Need a Mobile-Friendly Website
Let’s first go over the importance of maintaining a mobile-friendly website, because this is something that many webmasters overlook. It wasn’t long ago when virtually all forms of Internet traffic came from desktop computers. According to a recent statement made by Google, though, more users now perform searches on their smartphones and other mobile devices than desktops.
Furthermore, Google revealed earlier this year that it was “expanding” its use of mobile-compatibility as a ranking signal. So if your website loads and functions on mobile devices, it will receive a slight boost in its search rank.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results,” said Google on its Webmaster Central Blog.
Separate Mobile Domain
One of the supported configurations for creating a mobile-friendly website is the use of a separate mobile domain. This can be done as a standalone domain (e.g. yourcompany.mobi), or it can be done as a sub-domain (e.g. mobi.yourcompany.com). Some webmasters prefer this option because it eliminates the need to transition their existing website to a different platform or configuration. However, there are some major disadvantages to using a separate mobile domain.
Arguably, the biggest issue with separate mobile domains is the potential for duplicate content. Each time you publish a new article on your primary website, you must also add it to the mobile version. Subsequently, this results in the same content appearing on two domains, which may confuse search engines as they try to index and rank it.
Responsive Web Design
On the other side of the fence is a Responsive Web Design. Responsive websites serve the same HTML on the same domain name, but the user’s device adjusts accordingly to create an optimal viewing experience. Whether a person is accessing your website on a smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop, their device will automatically perform height and width adjustments. Responsive websites are able to achieve this by using CSS3 media queries and proportion grids, which is in stark contrast to separate mobile domains.
Of the different configurations Google supports for creating mobile-friendly websites, this is the only one it recommends. And when Google recommends something, you should listen to its advice.