Lauren Kaye

In a classic case of SEOs hanging on Google representatives’ every last word, webmasters were quick to pounce on Trends Analyst John Mueller’s statement that “a mobile-only site is fine.”

Mueller made this assertion in a Google Hangout, and apparently received numerous questions from curious SEOs who were wondering if this means mobile-only websites will be rewarded in search results (over desktop and responsive sites).

John Mueller

I’d just like to clarify that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should nor that it’s a best practice,” Mueller explained in a follow-up Google+ post. He added that, “If all we have from a business is a mobile-friendly site, then we’d rather index that than nothing. That obviously doesn’t make it a great practice though.”

Translation: No. Google does not want you to have a mobile-only site, unless your audience necessitates it. Although, you should have a mobile-friendly site that’s designed to display web content on smaller screens if you want to rank in mobile results pages. Earlier this year, Google released an algorithm to reward mobile optimized sites with higher rankings in mobile searches. You can learn more about what’s considered mobile-friendly and why it’s important in the following resources:

For best SEO results, do what’s right for your audience

If a website is getting nearly all of its traffic from tablets or smartphones, then it probably makes sense for that company to have a mobile-only site. That site will be indexed and ranked in results pages – even if there isn’t a desktop companion to go with it. Google is indexing both versions.  

It doesn’t make sense for a company to build a mobile-only site (at the expense of its responsive design or desktop page) just for the sake of doing what Google prefers. Businesses need to optimize sites for users first, search engines second. If the target audience is searching primarily on desktops, it’s smart to make sure the desktop version of the site is providing an excellent user experience.

Any site that sacrifices user experience in an attempt to gain SEO brownie points with Google will ultimately perform poorly in results, even IF they’ve done everything the search engine says is ‘best practice.’ At the end of the day, Google is in the business of providing searchers with the best information out there to answer their questions. And it will prioritize content they can easily use on whatever device they’re on.

Make your users happy by providing them with valuable content and a great user experience, and you’ll perform better in search results.