You have probably heard and read a lot about making sure your website is mobile-friendly and can be viewed and utilized in a mobile environment. Terms like responsive design and mobile optimization are thrown around and it can be confusing. What is best, responsive design or mobile optimization? Like most things in life, it depends.

It depends on the goal of your website, its primary users, and your budget. One thing is certain – making sure your website is mobile ready is critical for business success now and into the future. Google just announced it will be adding a “mobile-friendly” label to its mobile SERP and is testing using mobile-friendly as a ranking indicator.

Responsive design is often hailed as being the one-size-fits-all solution. Code and design once and then access it from any device no matter the size. While this is true, it comes with certain restrictions in the mobile world. Responsive design is not truly created for the mobile user. It can be slow and provide too much information or the wrong information for a mobile user.

Keep in mind that just because you have a responsive design, does not mean it is optimized for mobile.

Mobile optimized sites are often a bit responsive. They will reformat for a list of handheld or tablet devices. But, mobile optimized sites do much more. Most have larger buttons for navigation, are reformatted and provide different content geared to the mobile user’s needs. It is worth the effort to engage the mobile audience, as more consumers are turning to their mobile devices right in the store.

Truly mobile optimized sites have navigation designed for the thumb, contact information is easy to find and get to, and graphics are used sparingly and are made to load quickly. Think speed, ease of use and information you need while on the go. You can always give them access to your desktop version for a deeper dive into your site.

Responsive sites mean you only have to administer one site, which saves time and money to a point. A single URL avoids redirects which can break and be slow. A single URL will help with SEO.

Mobile optimized sites offer the best user experience as the site is specifically designed for the mobile user. Websites load faster which is critical for mobile. Both usability and speed are big ranking factors for local search.

So which way should you go? This is where you need to turn to a strategic and experienced SEO to help develop an overall mobile strategy for your business model, user demands and budget constraints.