A recent Webmaster Help Channel video addressed a question that's becoming important in a smartphone-driven era: responsive design or m.site?

It’s becoming clear consumers’ love of smartphones is going to have an impact on marketers’ SEO strategies. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently reported that 63 percent of cell phone owners use their mobile devices to access web content and chances are that figure will grow as more people adopt smartphones. To keep up with on-the-go internet users, marketers must make their brand content mobile-ready with responsive design sites or dedicated mobile domains.

According to the latest Google Webmaster Help Channel video, both m.sites (mobile-only) and responsive design domains are fine as long as use best practices and provide great visitor experiences. A primary difference between the two is that m.sites redirect users to separate pages optimized for smaller screens, while responsive design uses the same URL with separate display code. This ensures the content fits properly within varying screen sizes.

Google’s Search Engineer Matt Cutts offered this guidance in response to a user-submitted question about whether there’s any disadvantage to using responsive design when building mobile presences.

“I wouldn’t worry about a site that uses responsive design losing SEO benefit because, by definition, you get the same URL.”

“In general, I wouldn’t worry about a site that uses responsive design losing SEO benefit because, by definition, you get the same URL. So in theory, if you do a mobile version of your site if you don’t handle that well and you don’t do the rel=cannonical and all those sorts of things, you might in theory divide the PageRank between those two pages,” Cutts stated.

In fact, there might even be SEO advantages for marketers who take the responsive road. Because the web content is all hosted on a single URL, it could theoretically pass PageRank across each version. So links going to the desktop domain will carry over to the smartphone-optimized version. Ultimately, this could help brands rank higher in mobile searches – something that will become essential as users begin to do the bulk of their web browsing on the go.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.