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Google explains why mobile and desktop search results are different

June 25, 2021 0 comments

As you may know, Google now uses a mobile-first index to rank content on both mobile and desktop devices.

In that case, if we are only in the mobile-first indexing environment, why do desktop and mobile search results can differ so drastically?

The same question was recently asked by Google’s John Mueller. John mentioned several factors that change the search results on mobile and desktop devices.

First, John clarified that indexing and ranking are two independent parts of the overall process. According to John:

“So, mobile-first indexing is specifically about that technical aspect of indexing the content. And we use a mobile Googlebot to index the content.

But once the content is indexed, the ranking side is still (kind of) completely separate.”

Contextual personalization

John then further mentioned that mobile and desktop search rankings could be contextually personalized, and that’s the reason they can differ. He also highlighted a few different reasons why the rankings are often different on mobile and desktop.

He said:

“It’s normal that desktop and mobile rankings are different:

  • Sometimes that’s with regards to things like speed.
  • Sometimes that’s with regards to things like mobile-friendliness.
  • Sometimes that’s also with regards to the different elements that are shown on the search results page.

For example, if you’re searching on your phone, then maybe you want more local information because you’re on the go. Whereas if you’re searching on a desktop, maybe you want more images or more videos shown in the search results.

So we tend to show a different mix of different search results types. And because of that, it can happen that the ranking or the visibility of individual pages differs between mobile and desktop.

And that’s essentially normal. That’s a part of how we do ranking.

It’s not something where I would say it would be tied to the technical aspect of indexing the content.”

Mobile friendliness as a search engine ranking factor

The follow-up question was regarding the mobile page speed and friendliness as potential search engine ranking factors. 

John Mueller confirmed that these are indeed factors that can affect rankings, but those aren’t the only factors.

“Mobile friendliness is definitely a factor.

There might also be other factors that play in there, specifically with regards to mobile and desktop.

These are kind of the differences that are always a bit around with regards to mobile and desktop search results.

Sometimes it’s also just because it’s a different device or a different connection to the Internet, so we use different settings essentially for personalization.”

If you want to learn more, you can watch the conversation and more in this video.