Responsive web design (RWD) is the industries approach to create websites that are compatible with and easily accessible from multiple devices. The content presented on a responsive website will be available to all devices with minimum panning, scrolling or resizing. Thus, making it a seamless experience for users of PC, smartphones, tablets, and basically, anything with a screen and an internet connection.
The rise in popularity, need, and usage of RWD is due to the fact that mobile browsing is becoming the prominent popular choice for internet users. More than half of people surfing the net are doing so from their mobile devices, instead of from their personal computers.
Whether you own an online business, or run a blog, to stand out amongst the crowd and keep your users happy, you're site's going to have to step up its game.
If not for your user's experience the shift to a responsive site needs to happen if you want to stay relevant in SERPs. Google has announced that its algorithm for page rankings will be changing to include RWD. Basically, if a search was performed from a mobile device Google will rank your page higher in the search results, but only if your page is mobile-friendly.
If your page is already lives at the top of the search results, but isn't mobile friendly, it means you'll be losing millions of potential customers.
Want to find out if your page passes the new algorithm requirement?
Use your phone or tablet and search for it on Google.
If your page has the "mobile-friendly" tag, you're all set. If not, there's a test tool created by Google that will tell you why your website didn't pass the test.
In the past years, some businesses have created separate mobile versions of their websites in order to keep the business mobile friendly. However, it's pretty obvious that creating another website is not the best solution, since you would have to re-build your keywords and market share from the ground up.
Not to mention, doing so means you're putting duplicate content online, which is a well known SEO no-no.
And perhaps it's not even necessary to point out the fact that you would have to upload everything twice, manage two websites with the same content, but under different mediums, making sure you're posting the correct format on the correct website.
It's a lot of hassle!
In short: It's tedious and can become more expensive than investing in a RWD upfront to set yourself up properly.
Why is RWD important for SEO?
The answer to this question is actually very simple.
Because when we talk SEO, we're actually referring to Google's search optimisation. More than 90% of all internet searches go through Google, less than 10% going through Bing, Yahoo!, or other available search engines. Regardless if we're talking about desktop browsing or mobile browsing, securing your search engine success in Google is the way to go. And since they've decided to upgrade and improve their search results algorithm, it's time everyone else on the internet stepped up their game.
Having a single URL for your website, regardless if your customers use desktop browsers or mobile browsers is ideal for everybody.
Furthermore, when compared to a classic mobile site, an RWD site is undoubtedly faster and easier to surf. That's because they use less, if any, query redirecting in order to reach the desired URL. This improves your site's speed, but also greatly impacts your customer's experience.
More often than not mobile users are on 2G or 3G networks, and although the recent increase in 4G coverage is on the rise, its speeds are still incomparable to Wi-Fi or direct cable. Nobody wants to wait for pages to load. The average persons attention spans less then 8 seconds. Meaning, the faster your site loads, the happier the potential customers.
Although you're the owner and not the customer, your website should always be targeted towards the customer and his or her needs. It is after all an extension of your business.
When designing your website you should keep in mind that customer satisfaction is the most important factor if the goal is to increase sales, page views... or let's get real, both. Often, a user that is surfing specific content on the web will want to share that content with their friends or followers and having a responsive website will facilitate easy sharing between people with various devices.
In the end, responsive web design is simply the manifestation of modern web browsing as we know it. The fact of the matter is we're on the move and business who aren't evolving their websites to increase ease of accessibility are going to fall far, far behind.