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We are currently working on redesigning our site and making it responsive. It is a search intensive site with complex functionality, a lot of search filters and a lot of content.

Our mobile versions of certain pages need to hide some functionality (i.e. search filters) that exists in the desktop version and/or content (mainly blocks of text that are not necessary or are increasing page load in mobile devices).

My questions is this: does the situation of having the same URL (responsive site) serving slightly different content (text and/or search filters) for certain pages in different devices affect our SEO (SERPs or otherwise)?

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3 Answers 3

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If you're actually serving different content, what you're doing is adaptive rather than (or as well as) responsive. If it's purely responsive, the content sent from the server is always the same, but shown differently or not shown at all to users (and so, incidentally, will not confer any benefits for page load time). A fuller explanation of the differences here.

In either case, yes, if the content is sufficiently different they will perform differently in Google's respective indexes, and that can be advantageous. For example, with an adaptive site you could serve page titles and meta descriptions that are specifically optimised to mobile search.

If you are doing adaptive, be sure to send a Vary: User-Agent header so Google can understand the site's behaviour, and make sure Googlebot-mobile sees exactly what a human visitor on a mobile device would see.

Bing, and as far as I know most other search engines, don't operate a separate mobile index so the considerations there are somewhat less clear.

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Thanks :) I our case it seems that we use a combined RWD / AWD approach –  bmenekl Jun 1 at 7:15

Responsive design actually improves your SEO for several reasons mostly because of the in bound links help all versions of the page.

Google even highly recommends Responsive Design and Content

We recommend using responsive web design because it has many good aspects:

  • Using a single URL for a piece of content makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content, and a single URL for the content helps Google's algorithms assign the indexing properties for the content.
  • No redirection is needed for users to get to the device-optimized view, which reduces loading time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone and can degrade your site's user experience (see "Pitfalls when detecting user agents" section for details).
  • It saves resources for both your site and Google's crawlers. For responsive web design pages, any Googlebot user agents needs to crawl your pages once, as opposed to crawling multiple times with different user agents, to retrieve your content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site's contents and keep it appropriately fresh.

Google understands optimized content through Media Queries and JavaScript

Google for some time has had the ability to detect device-optimized views using media queries and in fact serving different content is actually encouraged as optimized content.

Better Experience

Optimising your content allows your site visitors to receive a overall better experience, for example there's no need to serve big images on a phone when you can serve smaller images meaning less loading time, you may want to do this via JS or using display:none, it doesn't matter because Google can detect both.

Hiding Text will mostly impact SEO but only on the targeted device

If hiding text using display:none; on the mobile view then you can expect that block of text not to contribute to the rankings on Mobile SERPS, Google Analysis's content in both Mobile and Desktop meaning you actually rankings will vary depending on which device is being used as it be able to established which content is viewable or triggable (Google has been doing this for years due to cloaking of data using display:none;)

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Having read the part of Google's recommendation that you refer to in your answer, I just want to say that Google is saying that on their part, responsive design is preferable to mobile versions of sites. However, my actual question is whether a site will be influenced badly by having different content, functionality and sometimes H1 titles in different device versions. –  bmenekl May 31 at 10:16
    
As I said... Google Analysis's content in both Mobile and Desktop if you have multiple H1's then only the visible will be taken into account so if you have Desktop Cats and Dogs, and only Cats on Mobile then only the keyword Cats will contribute to the mobile, not the hidden.... Google has a desktop crawler, and a mobile crawler. This principle has been around even before Responsive Design, Google only rewards for hidden content that is 'triggerable' via CSS or JS. –  bybe May 31 at 13:42

Having researched on the same question sometime back I came across this video from Google Webmasters at http://youtu.be/D03wRb4s7MU.

In the last part of the video (1.20 onwards) Matt Cutts says that in general you should not worry about a responsive website loosing SEO value because the code and the content for all the versions (for different viewports) of the page is there at one URL.

According to Google webmasters, responsive design is the recommended configuration for smartphone optimized websites. Reference https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/ therefore the impact on the SEO of a website because of responsive design usage is not likely to be there as Google would be taking care of that in their search algorithms.

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