During World War II, a company called Revolite created an adhesive tape with a canvas backing that effectively kept ammo cases water free and was resilient enough to wrap steel cables and protect them from corrosion.
It was so durable you had to rip off strips by hand and it quickly gained a reputation beyond protecting ammo cases to being strong enough to make quick repairs to military vehicles falling apart in the field.
The stuff was heat resilient to 400 °F and by the 1970s it was a household item, seemingly capable or repairing anything – from the crack in your vacuum hose to your teenager's blown-out tennis shoes.
I'm talking about duct tape.
But for all its limitless capabilities to make strong, temporary fixes, those fixes are just that – temporary.
In the end, those repairs require real fixes.
Optimizing mobile-only websites for search is a lot like using duct tape.
You can optimize a mobile website to target and attract mobile users, but in the end it's a temporary fix that requires a real solution.
Your number one problem is you now have two SEO campaigns to manage. One for desktops and one for mobile devices. That becomes a huge headache.
Because people use multiple devices to go online these days, using RWD is the preferred way to focus all of your SEO efforts into one campaign because the content doesn't change between devices.
Someone who has found your site on a desktop will find the same information on their smart phone.
As responsive design helps deliver your website to desktops, phones and tablets in a way that makes sense to the user – easy to read, easy to navigate – search engine optimization for both desktop search and mobile search has to accomplish a similar feat.
Your goal is to be found in both search platforms as near to the top of page one as possible.
So let's first look at how desktop search and mobile search differ from one another and then how they will affect your SEO strategy.
What is Mobile Search and How Is It Different From Regular Search?
Desktop search, or just plain search, is what you're use to using for Internet queries.
You go to Google, type in what you are looking for and then choose the result that appeals to you the most.
With regular search, queries fall into three categories: informational, navigational and transactional.
Informational and transactional are self-explanatory, but navigational might be misleading. It's when someone searches for a website because they don't know the exact URL.
So when you optimize your website for someone on a desktop, you are optimizing with these conditional searches in mind.
Using the foundations of keyword placement in your on-page optimization, you will improve your rankings in desktop search.
Mobile search adheres to the same foundation, with one huge difference.
Most mobile-specific keywords, about 94 percent of them, are location queries.
"Who sells duct tape near me?"
Not a big deal, really, but different.
So, it's become increasingly necessary to conform your SEO strategy to include mobile users.
This is especially the case since the release of Google's Hummingbird algorithm late last year.
With the move toward semantic search and the ever-growing use of mobile over desktop, the functionality of keywords has changed.
Mobile search is . . . well, mobile. It happens wherever people use their phones or tablets. And search results are geographical.
That being the case, your on-page SEO needs some local lovin' to target these users.
Target Your Local Community with The Right Keywords
Following that mobile search targets geographic results, your keywords have to include mobile-specific keywords.
Well, what are mobile-specific keywords?
Are you an auto insurance company that offers roadside assistance? What about a hardware store with multiple locations around town? Does your business offer mobile coupons redeemable at a physical store?
Mobile-specific keywords target the types of geographical queries your mobile audience will have.
They are the "where are you" keywords. And they can be incorporated into your current SEO strategy without rocking the boat.
Start with optimizing your most important on-page factors: Title, Meta Description, Heading tags and Image Alt tags.
Use Schema markup for providing specific data about your business identity that can show in the rich snippets section of search results.
It's been shown that using schema markup can increase CTR by up to 30%.
You can also use keywords to interlink content within your site. We use interlinking to connect to other pages on our site often. This post has several internal links pointing to other posts on our site. It strengthens your SEO.
Another CTR lift you can give your rankings is Google+ Authorship. At the bottom of this post you will see my name linked to my Google+ page.
When this article shows in the search results, my mug will be right there beside it.
Having a face next to a search result has been shown to increase the likelihood of someone clicking through to the content.
Don't miss out on that opportunity. You can sign up for Google+ Authorship here.
Google Has Made It Known It Prefers RWD
There is still a place for mobile-only websites. Clearly the determination you make in choosing either depends on the needs of your audience.
And then there's another reason. Google likes RWD. They don't say it should be used in all cases, but they do make a case for making it the go-to platform for an optimum user experience.
There has also been evidence that suggests in the search results Google shows favor to sites that are optimized for multiple devices.
From an SEO perspective this is great because you only have to focus on optimizing for one URL, one set of HTML code and one lane of content.
This in turn makes it easy for Google to crawl your content and index your site accordingly instead of forcing them to crawl two versions of the same site.
You Only Have to Optimize Content for One URL
Responsive design allows you to optimize content for all users using only one version of the content.
This makes it easy to share, easy to interact with and easy link to.
Have you ever clicked a link on Facebook from your desktop and landed on the mobile version of that content?
That makes for a very bad user experience and means your content is less likely to be shared.
Shared content is essentially linked content and the more links, the more authority your page gains. That translates to better rankings in the search engines.
Google also notices content that turns users away. That is called a bounce. High bounce rates can work negatively on your rankings as Google sees this as a signal for user satisfaction.
Since Google's job is to return the best possible results to users, content that doesn't meet the user's query or doesn't meet the expectations of the user will produce a high bounce rate and push you to the back of the line.
One such problem for many is playing video.
Last summer Google said that they, "recommend using HTML5 standard tags to include videos and avoid content in formats, such as Flash, that are not supported by all mobile devices.
"Regardless, try your best to offer smartphone users the best experience possible to make sure that the videos are playable on as many devices as possible."
Not really saying a penalty is waiting for you if you don't comply, but when in doubt, defer to my statement above about returning the best results.
There Are No Link Redirects to Worry About
One of the things that is still very much part of great site rankings is the number of quality external links pointing to your website.
That's when another website sends their visitors to your content via a link on their site. From your perspective this is called a backlink.
When you split external links across two domains you are diluting your overall domain authority.
For the most part, a mobile website URL can overcome this issue by using a redirect, rel=canonical, to keep the domain authority flowing to the main site URL.
With responsive design, you don't have to. A link to your desktop site is the same as a link to the mobile version. There's no need to redirect anything.
This gives you a clear advantage over a competitor who incorrectly manages domain authority across two sites.
An added bonus is not only do you not have to worry about redirecting backlinks, there is no confusion by outside sources on which site to link to.
Are There Some Down Sides to Responsive Design Optimization?
Sure. Nothing is full-proof in SEO.
But the disadvantages are minimal. Unless you are building an app that requires use of a device's specific functionality and thus need a separate SEO strategy, using a responsive website design will not disrupt any of your efforts.
Even Matt Cutts, Google's web spam Guru, says it's the smarter way to go over a separate mobile site.
Matt says, "In general, I wouldn't worry about a site that uses responsive design losing SEO benefits because by definition you've got 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=canonical and all those sorts of things, you might, in theory, divide the PageRank between those two pages. But if you have responsive design, everything is handled from one URL, and so the PageRank doesn't get divided, everything works fine."
He then concludes that you don't have to worry about any drawbacks to SEO in responsive web design, to just make sure the page works well for your users, loads quickly and provides the content that answers users' queries.
In all actuality, your SEO strategy really doesn't change when using responsive web design. You're just tweaking it to attract local traffic. Nothing more.
There's nothing wrong with going with a mobile-only version of your main site. But if you're looking at from a duct tape perspective, do yourself a favor and take the plunge on responsive. It should always be your first choice.
It makes for better, uniform SEO and takes the difficulty of maintaining two campaigns out of the equation.
Save the duct tape for fastening that flash light to your hat when the power goes out.
In the end, though, it's not about what's easier; it's about what works best for the user.
And by the way, duct tape is not good for use on ducts.