String's Automotive Marketing Blog

Per Google, Responsive Design For Car Dealers May Soon Be A Must

Posted by Matthew Kolodziej

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Jul 11, 2013 1:32:00 PM

How do you handle the mobile version of your web site?  If you don’t currently utilize responsive web design, it’s time to consider it.  Reading all of the signs, subtle and otherwise, coming out of Google in recent weeks and months, businesses that don’t have a comprehensive mobile SEO strategy will risk more than a poor customer experience – their search rankings will also take a hit. This has big implications for automotive SEO.

Google clearly recommends responsive design as their preferred approach to mobile SEO. This means having one site design that automatically adapts for an optimal user experience on any device.  In the past, they have also supported the dynamic serving method with either the same URL (different stylesheet served up depending on the detected device) or a separate mobile URL (, for example).

Car dealer site with responsive design

Enhanced Campaigns rewards responsive design

The first sign that Google was planning to strongly encourage all companies to adopt their recommended responsive approach came in April, when they announced their new Enhanced Campaigns module.  In the past, advertisers could select what devices they wanted ads to target.  Ads at the campaign level now have the potential to run across all devices, so prospective car buyers will see the same ad, whether browsing on a phone, table or desktop. 

If you have a site that’s responsive, this isn’t a problem, and in fact opens up a lot more flexibility and granularity for your advertising (For more information on how to take full advantage of Enhanced Campaigns for your dealership, check out our post on Automotive Digital Marketing).  But if your site is redirecting mobile users to your home page instead of the lease, inventory or service offers advertised, you’ll have to adjust for that in the world of Enhanced Campaigns.

Separate mobile sites risk ranking penalties

Now Google has announced that sites that don’t follow their recommended practices will be penalized in search rankings.  So if you’re using separate mobile URLs, it’s crucial that your mobile users are sent to pages with equivalent content.  Preferably those pages are mobile-optimized, but it’s better to send a mobile user to a desktop page that reflects the content they were looking for than to a mobile-optimized version of the homepage.  The red arrows below represent redirects that Google considers faulty:

Faulty click paths for mobile SEO

Can you get away without using responsive site design?  Absolutely, as long as your developer, site provider or agency plays close attention to Google’s guidelines.  But it will make taking full advantage of Google’s programs – and avoiding search-ranking penalties – a more complicated and painstaking process.  Given recent trends, it’s certainly possible that Google will continue to make it not only desirable but mandatory to follow their recommended best practices.  


String Automotive Dealer Diagnosis Report

Topics: seo, google, automotive seo, responsive design