Responsive | What does it mean for the SEO?

In sitting down to write this blog I realize that I don’t know the first thing about how to write a blog. I find myself in the same position that I found myself almost a year ago when I first ventured into the world of SEO (search engine optimization) and discovered a passion for things like ORM and ROI – acronyms notwithstanding.

When I first entered into this space I was lost and more than a little overwhelmed. It was only thanks to good teachers (thanks Mike), good articles (thanks SEOMOZ), and good advice (thanks Ed Reese) that I was able to get a handle on things and earn enough of a paycheck so that my boss could garnish it – and not like with parsley or something similar.

Just as I found myself wondering about new things then, so do I find myself wondering about the things that are coming now. Changes have entered into the local search space – changes that were quick to come and quicker to have an effect. Well meaning Pandas meandered into our bamboo forests and made quick work of our ill-prepared, or even maliciously created, plots and farms. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on using these agricultural metaphors for long.

One of the biggest changes that I’ve seen recently entering the local space is this word: “responsive”. What does it mean to be responsive? Merriam-Websters defines responsive as “quick to respond or react appropriately or sympathetically”. This definitely sheds some light on the situation. In our case we’re appending the word “responsive” with the added “web design”.

When the internet was in its infancy we as its users were unsure how best to get it to do what we wanted. Like tried-and-true methods of SEO we married ourselves into old ideals; fixed-widths, hard-coded pixels, and exact resolutions. At the time this seemed like the best course of action – and it was, because we didn’t know any better.

Theres been a revolution, however, and its been slow in coming – and that revolution has taken the slogan, “responsive web design” – web design that is “quick to respond or react appropriately or sympathetically” to all manner of frameworks and resolutions. From the aesthetic standpoint, this is wonderful because that website you’ve labored on for so long can now be viewed in all manner of resolutions – from the top-of-the-line LCD display, to the newest mobile phenomenon.

Why is this important to an SEO? Because SEO is more then just ranking, SEO is conversions – and conversions only happen when your clients business is visible on the front page. This is an important concept, because the ideals behind responsive can be applied to more then just a website design.

Lets look at it this way, using the “responsive” definition as our guide:

1. Quick To Respond

As an SEO, I’ve found that timeframes are our biggest ally – and our biggest weakness. We are at the mercy of the latest algorithm update, the most recent index archive, or just waiting for a client to provide us with the necessary information. As an SEO most of our time can be eaten up in looking, analyzing, and figuring – but what if we were to say to ourselves, “Okay, now its time to DO.”

Being quick to respond means that we are aware of what is happening with our clients right now, and we have a plan of action. Even if that plan is nothing more then, “Hey, we’re making you money RIGHT NOW.”

2. React Appropriately or Sympathetically

Let’s say your day starts out like any other normal day. You’re up at the crack of dawn, feeding the dog, getting the kids on the school bus; all is well. Then you hear an insistent beep from your fancy iDevice, casually glance down at the email – and realize that Google has completely disconnected your Places listing from your Organic listing. Your normal day is now anything but normal.

I can tell you that when I first started in this space as the SEO infant that I am, this was an event on the level of the meteor that took out the dinosaurs (insert your own appropriate extinction-level event).

I would furiously peruse emails, forums, websites, and blogs in an attempt to figure out what was going on – and how best to help my client. I was reacting, but was it appropriately?

Looking back on that younger self I can say that there definitely were things I could’ve done differently had I taken the time to be prepared – but sometimes Google throws us for a loop and we have to react appropriately. Is this a Google Places issue? Are we just spinning our wheels? Are our efforts actually hurting us?

These are all questions that have been brought to my attention in the last few months – and in looking at “responsive web design” there are several applications of the philosophy behind it. At first I was a Search Engine Optimizer. That title slowly evolved into a Search Engine Marketer. Even then, Conversion Marketing Specialist was thrown around.

Now, philosophically, I’d like to think that I’m a Responsive Search Optimizer – its not catchy, but I’m hoping it will just be a matter of time. As a responsive search optimizer, that’s really the only constant.


Curtis Richins is gainfully employed at Nifty Marketing – his title says “Human Response Analyst”, but really, what’s in a title? He’s married the most wonderful woman in the world, has a passion for SEO, Video Games, Human Interaction, and is less than sub-par at writing.