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The rankings of mobile and desktop browsers differ in ways that are less than obvious. If we look at the official Chrome Developer Chart, for instance, we can see that Safari is the most popular desktop browser, with a 29.56% market share. In contrast, a closer look at the mobile browser market shows that Chrome is more popular on mobile than on desktop. It is also easy to see why: Chrome is the only browser on both platforms that can run all the modern web features. Even IE, the old standby, only supports some modern web features on both platforms.

Google’s John Mueller answered an interesting question about why search rankings can be different on mobile and desktop. Muller mentioned several factors related to personalization to explain why the two types of research are sometimes different.

Why are rankings different for desktop and mobile searches?

The questioner wanted to know how to diagnose why the website is not performing as well in mobile search as it is in desktop search. The question is this: Why don’t we… How do rankings for desktop and mobile differ when we have already moved to mobile-first indexing? John Mueller of Google pointed out that indexing and ranking are two different things. View More information below Just because we’re in a mobile-first indexing environment doesn’t mean that mobile and desktop versions have the same ranking because they’re indexed as mobile. Mueller: Mobile-based indexing is thus only the technical aspect of content indexing. And we use the mobile Googlebot to index the content. But once the content is indexed, the ranking page remains completely separate (so to speak).

Mobile and desktop rankings are adapted to the context

Mueller further explained that in some situations, the context of the search engine and the device used can change the ranking. He explained that for some searches, users’ needs vary from device to device, which can affect rankings. View More information below

John Mueller explains why mobile and desktop searches are different

Müller explains: And it’s only natural that the rankings for desktops and mobile phones are different. Sometimes it’s about things like speed. Sometimes it’s about things like the usability of cell phones. Sometimes this also applies to the different elements displayed on the search results page. For example, if you are searching on your phone, you may need more local information because you are on the move. However, if you are searching on a desktop computer, you may want more images or videos to appear in your search results. That’s why we tend to have… different combinations of different types of search results. As a result, the ranking or visibility of individual pages may be different on mobile than on desktop. And it’s all right. This is part of our ranking. I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with the technical aspect of indexing content.

Page speed and moving factors for ranking differences

The interviewer then asked a follow-up question to determine these differences in rank. He asked if the lower mobile rankings were an indication that mobile page speed factors were the cause. Google’s Mueller responded: …Mobile usability is certainly an important factor. Other factors may also play a role in this respect, particularly as regards mobile and desktop computers. These are the kinds of differences that still exist in mobile and desktop search results. Sometimes it’s also because it’s a different device or internet connection, so we use different settings for personalization. View More information below

Differences in assessment are due to customisation

Google’s John Mueller confirmed that mobile indexing is just indexing and is separate from the ranking part of the algorithm. Personalization was also found to play a role in the occasional differences in search rankings between mobile and desktop searches. Mueller explained that the needs of someone using a mobile device may be different than those of someone using a desktop device. So if you are trying to understand why there are differences in ranking on different devices, it may be useful to examine why mobile versions of higher ranked pages are preferred over lower ranked pages in the context of mobile and personalization. View More information below It may contain clues to help diagnose problems.


Why rankings for mobile and desktop are different in mobile-first indexing Watch John Mueller’s answer to this question in minute 49:10.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can organic results differ between desktop and mobile?

No one likes to have their content about mobile rankings constantly changing — there’s a reason for that… but why does mobile ranking content look so different than desktop content? While mobile rankings are similar to desktop rankings, there are some differences. People are more likely to scroll on mobile, which means that mobile rankings are less likely to be at the top of the page. What is the best way to rank on Google? It’s one of the most hotly debated topics in the SEO community, and there are a lot more variables to consider than whether or not the site is optimized for mobile. To help answer this question, we’ve taken a look at how organic results differ between desktop and mobile.

How does mobile SEO differ from desktop?

It’s easy to focus on desktop (desktop) but there’s a lot more to it than that. Mobile SEO is still a very new and often overlooked channel for getting traffic to your website. However, the rules of Google Mobile Search are different from those of desktop search. I have to admit, the other day I was feeling particularly self-indulgent, so I was browsing around on my phone when I came across a new research study on mobile marketing. In the study, researchers were able to show that people were more likely to click on ads on their mobile devices than on their desktop computers. That’s a bit surprising, I thought, so I had to read the study myself.

Why are mobile search results different?

The phone market is a very different place than the PC market. The PC market is dominated by Apple with a minority of Microsoft, Google and Lenovo. Mobile is a much more fragmented market. There are a few big players like Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon but the majority of the market is dominated by hundreds of smaller OEMs that sell many different phones with different features and different specs to different markets. This fragmentation is a big advantage for mobile marketers and publishers. The mobile web is certainly huge, with over 2.7 billion devices accessing the web over mobile networks. But it’s not a one-to-one comparison, with mobile search results (MSR) typically taking anywhere from 20% to 50% less time to load. The question is why?

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