Google continues to differentiate mobile results from desktop search results, having recently announced interactive answers for tablet and mobile and a test for smartphone icons in smartphone search results.

Did you even know that Google mobile search results (whether tablet, feature phone or smartphone) can be different from desktop results?

In May of last year, I shared 14 ways they’re different. This year some differences have disappeared and others have taken their place, but in all, there are at least 16 known differences between Google smartphone results and Google desktop results as of this writing.

Google announces separate changes for mobile and desktop in their search quality updates, so the fact that there are some differences between mobile and desktop results that marketers should be aware of shouldn’t be too controversial by now. Yet, I know this is a counterintuitive and even an unpopular notion in SEO at the moment.

In June, Pierre Far of Google said that smartphone results are “basically the same,” as desktop results. And in the beginning of 2012, Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz said the impact of mobile on SEO would be “negligible” due to search results that were “pretty device agnostic.”

Yet, in spite of these comments, I’ve cataloged at least 16 differences below. If you’ve been keeping track, that’s two more than in May of last year, so mobile and desktop search results don’t seem to be varying any less over time.

1.  Local results Are More Likely In Mobile

Google Places listings sometimes appear higher in mobile results than they do in desktop, and domains with local intent are more likely to appear. Figure 1:  Web search results don’t even appear above the fold for query [chicago restaurants"], and only one listing appears above the fold for the Chrome incognito result, where 7 local results and a Web result appear above the fold on desktop.

If you have a local business that you’re interested in optimizing, this makes Google+ Local optimization essential, and may even call for domains with geo-modified keywords, depending on your situation.

This tactic may conflict with a desktop SEO strategy that would consolidate link equity into one canonical domain; but it may be most effective for mobile visibility. The key to making the right decision for your business is fully understanding the situation and possible consequences of your actions. Not ignoring mobile search.

2.  Autocomplete Results Appear Before Results In Mobile App Search

Optimizing for mobile suggest with a search call to action in broadcast advertising may help users find the high-priority content surrounding your brand that they might not have found otherwise. Autocomplete also searches your phone if you have it enabled.

3.  Certain Queries Have Interactive Results In Mobile

These push Web rankings down (see [weather] in Android and iPhone search, for example): In Jelly Bean’s updated search experience, a female voice also answers simple questions, negating the need to view the search results at all.

Marketers who target these types of queries with interactive results may see a lower CTR, which might affect their selection of keywords in the first place. This would affect both their mobile and desktop campaigns.

4.  Android Users Are Always Logged In

This means personalized results are shown more often than in desktop search. This might call for on-site messaging related to actions that change personalized search results, such as “bookmark this site for easier access in Google.”

5.  Positions Of Vertical Results Likely Different In Smartphone Results

For example, video results are broken up on second line instead of placed on same line. Image results often appear higher in mobile search results. Image search optimization and video SEO often have a low priority in enterprise SEO, but if mobile is important to the business goals, this may change the overall priority.

6.  Smartphone Results Have Different Filters

These can appear at the top (or bottom in Jelly Bean) (Web, Images, Places, more versus Web, Images, Videos, Maps, News, Shopping, Gmail, more). Fewer places to filter may mean a higher CTR in mobile search.

7.  Blended Mobile Ranking Algorithm

This was demonstrated for mobile queries at Searchology 2009. While it’s unclear how many queries this applies to in the U.S. at present, the post-Panda user-focused search results make it likely to grow in the coming years. Update: I asked Pierre Far whether this was still a factor and he wasn’t aware of the algorithm.

It’s clear, however, that in some queries, such as [download free ringtones], app store content appears on mobile and not on desktop, which is one application of Google’s patent for the algorithm that Scott Huffman demonstrated at Searchology 2009.

8.  Google Play or iTunes Results For Queries That Include “Download” Or “App”

If your target keywords for desktop SEO include these keywords, they may have different results with lower click through rates in mobile search. What’s more, certain queries are more likely to produce iTunes or Google Play results, pushing all core web search results down.

9.  CTR & Bounce Rate More Likely To Vary In Mobile

If CTR and bounce rate data is used to determine ranking in smartphone results, CTR and bounce rate are more likely to vary in mobile smartphone listings.

As listings in search suggest, abbreviated title line breaks and descriptions, unusable desktop sites in mobile results, increased engagement of mobile users and the variations in ranking and UI mentioned above are all likely to change click through rates and bounce rates for smartphone searches.

It’s hard to know exactly how, though, as currently we have seemingly conflicting information from Google that mobile users scroll more than desktop users and that there’s a 90% drop off in CTR in mobile search results after position 4.

10.  Knowledge Graph Nested Within Results In Mobile

Whereas it appears on the right in desktop, in mobile, knowledge graph information can make your Web search listing even less visible on a smartphone.

Knowledge graph results for Miley Cyrus appear in the Web results in smartphone results, and to the right of desktop results.

Knowledge graph results for Miley Cyrus appear in the web results in smartphone results, and to the right of desktop results

11.  Knowledge Graph Doesn’t Appear For Some Queries In Mobile

Even if the same query is returned in desktop search. Not sure how this is determined, but it’s clear for some queries (like medal count), knowledge graph information is listed in desktop and not in mobile.

Fewer distractions could mean higher click through rates on an organic mobile listing than the same one in desktop.

12.  Mobile URLs Listed Per Skip Redirect

This could increase click through rate for brands with mobile URLs that properly indicate as much to Google.

Desktop listing shows www in URL, while smartphone shows m. in URL, as is typical with Skip Redirect

13.  Mobile Instant Preview Allows You to Thumb Through Results Quickly

This is a UI change, but in mobile results it acts as a visual SERP, allowing users to bypass the traditional search results altogether. Others have speculated that this could increase CTR to mobile friendly pages.

14.  Smartphone Icons Indicate Smartphone Friendly Content

This is just a test at the moment, but could, like mobile URLs, increase CTR from smartphone searchers who prefer mobile friendly content.

15.  Google Now Provides Search Results With No Queries

The search results come in the form of cards, regularly performing routine searches in the background. Being aware of which types of searches are performed most often (e.g. sports, traffic, weather, etc).

Query-free Google Now results

 

16. Google Goggles Provides Entirely Different Results, Based On Visual Queries

Like image search with image upload on the desktop, but with different results

As with last year’s list, there may be more than 16 differences here, but these are the ones I was easily able to find. If you know of more differences between smartphone search results and desktop search results in Google, please leave them in the comments.

I understand that if you’re just concerned with Web search, you may not think this is a game changer, as many of these differences don’t affect core Web search results. This is probably where Rand Fishkin and Pierre Far were coming from, as many users just aren’t going to notice or care that smartphone search results are slightly different than desktop results in 16 different ways.

However, long gone are the days of the ten blue links, and rapidly diminishing are the days when you can afford to ignore mobile nuances if you want to get traffic from mobile search.

A busy webmaster dealing with Penguin cleanup may not think of mobile search differences as an opportunity worthy of prioritization, but for an optimizer looking for more qualified traffic to her sites, understanding the differences between mobile search and desktop search might be what’s needed to take a search campaign to the next level.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Mobile | Mobile Search | SEO: Mobile Search

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About The Author: is Director of Content Solutions at Resolution Media, and a primary architect of Resolution Media's natural search product and Digital Behavior Analysis. You can follow him on Twitter @BrysonMeunier

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.brysonmeunier.com/ Bryson Meunier

    Kamil, thanks for your comments and you are entitled to your opinion. My response is below.

    “I completely can not agree with you. Point 1.2.3 are not SEO, positioning or SERP’s differeneces. There is only form changed, not results.”
    Tell that to Zagat, who is much less likely to get traffic from the keyword in the Android browser since they’ve gone from the first listing to the 8th, or to the Weather Channel, who probably won’t get a visit organically from the query ‘weather’ from Android users running Jelly Bean, as the web results don’t even appear until the female voice is finished telling you the current weather conditions. Web rankings have only mattered historically because first position on the desktop typically brings more organic traffic. It’s not about rankings, it’s ultimately about traffic and conversions, and these “form” changes, as you say, are very likely to affect organic traffic and conversions, and thus SEO.
    “Point 4. If u r logged in on your desktop you also have personalized SERPs. Nothing changed here, no difference between mobile and desktop.”
    But Android users are always logged in. If you don’t think there’s a difference between being occasionally logged in and always logged in, you’re really not looking at this critically enough to notice the differences I’m discussing.
    “Ad point 5. There are a lot of queries on dekstop where the images will be first results.”
    Yes, but the point of this article was to show the differences between mobile and desktop, however subtle. This is a difference that could affect organic traffic, so I’m advising marketers who care about organic traffic and conversions to be aware of it. If you don’t care about it, that’s your prerogative. But it’s arguably not SEO, which is about optimization, or the optimal case. “Ad. point 6. Filtering doesn;t mean changing the results in searches. It just filters – the same on mobile devices and desktops.”
    Again, click through rate affects conversions, and differences like this can filter traffic to different parts of the page, and not to a shopping cart or a publisher ad. These subtle differences can matter when it comes to revenue from organic search, so they’re worth pointing out.
    “Ad Point 8. I checked on my phone and desktop and cant see any difference.”
    Oh, well, then it’s settled. ;)
    Here’s Google’s announcement from two years ago of the change if you need further proof: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2010/06/google-search-for-mobile-now-includes.html
    If you put in app-seeking queries (i.e. queries containing “download” or “app”) on a smartphone you are very likely to get app results in mobile and not on desktop. Check again.
    “10.11.12 are only changed forms.”
    And changed “forms” affects click through rate, traffic and conversions. As an SEO, do you not care about these things?
    “Ad Point 14. This is interesting, but can be technically hard to devides websites into mobile friendly and not firendly. We can have m.domain.com website with redirecting or have o scalable website written in html5. Which is better? Both solutions are correct and mobile firendly. And the world trend in making websites is to use html5 and creaty friendly sites for people general (those using dekstops, mobile devices and even disabled).”
    Google will give an icon regardless of whether the site is on a mobile URL or was built with responsive design in mind, provided you follow their guidelines for creating smartphone content that I mentioned in the piece: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/
    “Mobile SEO is strange fashion for me. At my company everyone have orgasm while talking about mobile marketing and seo, but no one ever consider how can it works. Let’s say mobile shopping. Looking at Googe Analytics I can see that form 40 mobile buys at interent shop 39 are made from tablet and only one on smartphone. What does it mean? It means taht shopping through mobile phones is not comfortable and can;t be popular (escpecially in normal shopping which is common nowadays). I can imagine some markting campaigns, discounts etc. Or maybe shopping connected with mobile, but I can;t image someone buying underwear while using iphone…”
    Has it ever occurred to you that you’re not optimized for mobile search traffic? Or that your site makes it difficult to convert from a smartphone? Or that a searcher is researching on a smartphone and buying offline or on a tablet or computer later, as so many do? Try telling eBay that shopping on mobile phones is not popular and very uncomfortable. They made their mobile offerings easy to use and did $8 billion in mobile commerce retail volume as a result. Or to Amazon, who did $2 billion last year in mobile commerce. Yes, people like to shop on tablets, but if you give them a reason to buy on their smartphones and make it easy to do so, they will.

    People will even buy things that you wouldn’t think they would. For example, eBay routinely sells sports cars through their mobile app, as Oracle reported last year on their blog (https://blogs.oracle.com/retail/entry/ebay_leads_mobile_commerce):

    “eBay claims they sell 3-4 Ferraris on their mobile app each month. Yes, mobile commerce is not limited to small items. While I would wait to get home and fire up the PC, the current generation that has grown up with mobile phones has no issue satisfying their impulses. Dave Sikora of Digby told me he’s seen people buy furniture sets, mattresses, and diamonds via their mobile phones.
    I guess mobile commerce is rapidly becoming the norm.”
    This is a mobile commerce issue more than a straight SEO issue, but the point is: don’t make generalizations about the industry based on what’s happening on your site.
    I appreciate your comments but obviously can’t agree. All of these things can affect organic traffic and conversions from Google, regardless of whether they affect web rankings, and thus affect SEO.
    Best,
    Bryson

  • http://www.brysonmeunier.com/ Bryson Meunier

    Kamil, thanks for your comments and you are entitled to your
    opinion. My response is below.

    “I completely can not agree with you. Point
    1.2.3 are not SEO, positioning or SERP’s differeneces. There is only form
    changed, not results.”

    Tell that to Zagat, who is much less likely to get traffic
    from the keyword in the Android browser since they’ve gone from the first
    listing to the 8th, or to the Weather Channel, who probably won’t get a visit
    organically from the query [weather] from Android users running Jelly Bean, as
    the web results don’t even appear until the female voice is finished telling
    you the current weather conditions. Web rankings have only mattered
    historically because first position on the desktop typically brings more
    organic traffic. It’s not about rankings, it’s ultimately about traffic and
    conversions, and these “form” changes, as you say, are very likely to affect
    organic traffic and conversions, and thus SEO.

    “Point 4. If u r
    logged in on your desktop you also have personalized SERPs. Nothing changed
    here, no difference between mobile and desktop.”

    But Android users are always logged in. If you don’t think
    there’s a difference between being occasionally logged in and always logged in,
    you’re really not looking at this critically enough to notice the differences I’m
    discussing.

    “Ad point 5. There are
    a lot of queries on dekstop where the images will be first results.”

    Yes, but the point of this article was to show the
    differences between mobile and desktop, however subtle. This is a difference
    that could affect organic traffic, so I’m advising marketers who care about
    organic traffic and conversions to be aware of it. If you don’t care about it,
    that’s your prerogative. But it’s arguably not SEO, which is about
    optimization, or the optimal case.

    “Ad. point 6.
    Filtering doesn;t mean changing the results in searches. It just filters – the
    same on mobile devices and desktops.”

    Again, click through rate affects traffic and conversions,
    and differences like this can filter traffic to different parts of the page,
    and not to a shopping cart or a publisher ad. These subtle differences can
    matter when it comes to revenue from organic search, so they’re worth pointing
    out.

    “Ad Point 8. I checked
    on my phone and desktop and cant see any difference.”

    Oh, well, then it’s settled. ;)

    Here’s Google’s announcement from two years ago of the
    change if you need further proof: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2010/06/google-search-for-mobile-now-includes.html

    If you put in app-seeking queries (i.e. queries containing “download”
    or “app”) on a smartphone you are very likely to get app results in mobile and
    not on desktop. Check again.

    “10.11.12 are only
    changed forms.”

    And changed “forms” affects click through rate, traffic and
    conversions. As an SEO, do you not care about these things?

    “Ad Point 14. This is
    interesting, but can be technically hard to devides websites into mobile
    friendly and not firendly. We can have m.domain.com website with redirecting or
    have o scalable website written in html5. Which is better? Both solutions are
    correct and mobile firendly. And the world trend in making websites is to use
    html5 and creaty friendly sites for people general (those using dekstops, mobile
    devices and even disabled).”

    Google will give an icon regardless of whether the site is
    on a mobile URL or was built with responsive design in mind, provided you
    follow their guidelines for creating smartphone content that I mentioned in the
    piece:

    https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/

    “Mobile SEO is strange
    fashion for me. At my company everyone have orgasm while talking about mobile
    marketing and seo, but no one ever consider how can it works. Let’s say mobile
    shopping. Looking at Googe Analytics I can see that form 40 mobile buys at
    interent shop 39 are made from tablet and only one on smartphone. What does it
    mean? It means taht shopping through mobile phones is not comfortable and can;t
    be popular (escpecially in normal shopping which is common nowadays). I can
    imagine some markting campaigns, discounts etc. Or maybe shopping connected
    with mobile, but I can;t image someone buying underwear while using iphone…”

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you’re not optimized for
    mobile search traffic? Or that your site makes it difficult to convert from a
    smartphone? Or that a searcher is researching on a smartphone and buying
    offline or on a tablet or computer later, as so many do? Try telling eBay that
    shopping on mobile phones is not popular and very uncomfortable. They made
    their mobile offerings easy to use and did $8 billion in mobile commerce retail
    volume as a result. Or to Amazon, who did $2 billion last year in mobile
    commerce. Yes, people like to shop on tablets, but if you give them a reason to
    buy on their smartphones and make it easy to do so, they will.

    People will even buy things that you wouldn’t think they
    would. For example, eBay routinely sells sports cars through their mobile app,
    as Oracle reported last year on their blog (https://blogs.oracle.com/retail/entry/ebay_leads_mobile_commerce):

    “eBay claims they sell 3-4 Ferraris on their mobile app each
    month. Yes, mobile commerce is not limited to small items. While I would wait
    to get home and fire up the PC, the current generation that has grown up with
    mobile phones has no issue satisfying their impulses. Dave Sikora of Digby told
    me he’s seen people buy furniture sets, mattresses, and diamonds via their
    mobile phones.

    I guess mobile commerce is rapidly becoming the norm.”

    This is a mobile commerce issue more than a straight SEO
    issue, but the point is: don’t make generalizations about the industry based on
    what’s happening on your site.

    I appreciate your comments but obviously can’t agree. All of
    these things can affect organic traffic and conversions from Google, regardless
    of whether they affect web rankings, and thus affect SEO.

    Best,

    Bryson

  • SOMFW

    Great Article.
    I thought I was Going nuts. With my searches, no matter how I word them, (depending on subject matter), nearly every time the results are just App Store Links, which is Really annoying me. Ask Android search “Why are Android search results all APP Links”
    Answer? A half a page of worthless APP Store links! This is making me use other search engines, since upgrading to jelly Bean. I wish there was a way to fix this, but if it continues, Windows phone / Bing here I come.

 

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