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Mobile SEO vs. Desktop SEO

Optimizing your site for desktop & mobile improves your search engine experience.

James Gibbons
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Technological advancement allows people to visit your website anytime and from any location. As a result, Google began to modify its algorithm for users looking at mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. This desire for a seamless internet experience alters how search engine optimization (SEO) tactics operate.

Internet browsing on mobile accounts for 70% of all internet time, increasing mobile search influence on search engines like Google. Google prioritized mobile-first indexing to rank well in search results.

So, what's the difference between mobile and desktop SEO?

Please read our blog to learn the difference between mobile and desktop SEO. Optimizing your website for mobile search leads to a positive user experience and higher conversion rates.

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Understanding Mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is optimizing your website to make it easier for mobile users to find and interact with your website. It includes ensuring your website is optimized and content loads quickly & accurately for mobile devices.

A mobile-friendly website directly affects your SERP ranking.

Google specifically states that mobile usability is a factor in determining how your website is ranked and gaining more visibility.

Google also encourages web admins to use its mobile-friendly website testing tool to know how their website performs on mobile devices. Besides having a mobile-friendly website, Google emphasizes providing a positive user experience on mobile. Think about how page performance affects user experience broadly and consider a variety of experience metrics (like core web vitals).

You can enhance your knowledge of mobile-friendly websites by reading our guide on how to make your website mobile-friendly.

How is Mobile Search Different from Desktop?

Mobile search has made it much easier to use a small device than a laptop or desktop computer. While desktop and mobile search types are similar in purpose and features, they differ in some aspects.

One of the significant differences between mobile and desktop searches is the user experience. On mobile devices, the search results are often displayed as an app-like interface or on a single page that moves linearly. Mobile search results are constantly tailored to the user’s location, allowing them to find nearby places more quickly.

Another difference between desktop and mobile searches is the displayed content type. For example, desktop search results often contain more text and images than mobile ones. It is because mobile devices have smaller screens designed for on-the-go usage. Thus, optimize mobile search results for quick information retrieval instead of long-form reading.

Additionally, mobile devices often have touchscreens, which require a different type of user interaction than traditional desktop computers.

Finally, mobile SEO enables voice search optimization. Users can quickly and accurately search for information using only their voice. It is beneficial for hands-free tasks, such as driving and other activities where typing is not an option.

We have compared desktop & mobile SEO in this section in detail.

Overall, mobile search is a powerful tool that has revolutionized how people access the internet.

Mobile SEO Benefits

Mobile SEO has become increasingly relevant in today's digital world. Mobile SEO can help increase visibility in search engine queries, provide a better user experience, drive more conversions, and assist in voice search.  Let us look at why mobile SEO is essential for your business:

1. Improves Site Speed: Google has indicated that site speed is an important ranking factor. Investing in mobile SEO ensures your site loads quickly and users are satisfied when navigating your website.

2. Improves User Experience: Mobile SEO makes it easier for visitors to navigate your website on their smartphone or tablet. Optimizing your website for SEO helps to enhance user experience & satisfaction and increases dwell time.

3. Decreases Website Bounce Rate: Mobile SEO helps you lower the bounce rate and keep users on your site longer. A lower bounce rate indicates to Google that the website is trusted and should be placed higher in the SERP rankings.

4. Ensures a Responsive Website: Optimizing your website for mobile SEO means your website remains responsive to all devices. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test allows you to check your site's appearance on different devices and optimize it accordingly.

5. Optimized for Voice Search: You will gain access to a new group of people by utilizing voice search. These people rely on smartphones and smart speakers to discover companies and make purchases. Voice search optimization can also enhance your site's overall SEO and ranking.

6. Improves Mobile Conversions: Mobile searches with a transactional intent have increased drastically. When your website is mobile-friendly, people are likelier to click your call-to-action buttons, fill out a form, etc. It will help you to convert your visitors into potential customers.

Mobile-friendly Website Checklist

A mobile usability test will ensure your website provides a seamless user experience across devices. Here are the steps to check that your website is mobile-friendly: 

1. Go to Google’s mobile page testing tool

2. Enter your website URL

3. Hit the ‘Test URL’ option

Mobile-friendly test
Mobile-friendly test

4. Check the results for any mobile usability issues

5. If your website passes, you will see “Page is usable on mobile.”

Mobile-friendly test result successful
Mobile-friendly test result successful

6. If you fail, the test will allow you to check a site-wide mobile usability report to make necessary changes to the website.

Find the top reasons why your website is failing the mobile-friendly test & how to make your website mobile responsive.

Mobile SEO and Desktop SEO: Similarities

Mobile and desktop SEO have many similarities. Both are important for visibility in search engine results, and similar strategies can help enhance visibility and provide user-friendly experiences.

Let us understand how to optimize your website for desktop and mobile search:

1. Use Responsive Web Design: Responsive web design ensures that your content supports all device types, including desktop, mobile, and tablets. It lets your website adjust automatically to the user's resolution and device size.

2. Easy to Navigate Website: A good user experience is essential for both types of devices. Whether you optimize for desktop or mobile, your website should be user-friendly with an easy-to-navigate platform. Using best practices like faceted search or adding breadcrumbs site-wide can optimize your website for improved navigation.

3. Optimize Page Speed: Page speed is essential for SEO, even more so for mobile users. Mobile users often have slower internet connections, so a slow website can lead to higher rankings and a better user experience. To optimize page speed, reduce the size of the images, minimize the code, and compress files.

4. Optimize Content: Create content with the desktop and the mobile user in mind. Ensure the copy aligns with relevant keyword clusters you want to target and is optimized for user search intents. Keep content concise and highlight the most critical points, as mobile users may need more attention spans. Providing relevant and valuable content to users will make it rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Following these steps, you can optimize your website for desktop and mobile search, ensuring the best user experience possible.

Mobile SEO vs. Desktop SEO

Most of the best practices for mobile SEO are the same as desktop SEO. Yet, mobile search results are far more different than desktop search results due to an extra set of criteria.

Page orientation, user location, search behavior, screen size, and other factors influence which content is ranked first. Because of the interplay of these elements, search engine crawling, indexing, and ranking procedures vary between devices.

Mobile SEO provides a foundation for success on any device.

But first, it is critical to understand how desktop and mobile search results differ and how those variations affect search results. Let us look at the significant differences between mobile and desktop SEO.

Mobile Search Behavior vs. Desktop Search Attitude

Mobile search generally has a more immediate need, with users actively searching for a solution. As a result, mobile searchers are typically more particular with their queries and have a clear idea of what they are looking for.

Thus, mobile SEO focuses more on the first position in search engine results. It is because users on mobile devices are less likely to scroll down the page, meaning that appearing near the top of the results is essential for visibility.

In contrast, desktop search has a longer timeline, allowing users to take their time and explore. Desktop searchers are more likely to browse, discover new information, and ask more questions. Desktop users are likelier to scroll down the results page to check all the options.

Mobile Voice Search vs. Desktop Type Search

One of the significant distinctions between mobile and desktop users is how they enter their queries into search engines.

Desktop users typically type in their queries, while mobile users are likelier to perform a voice search. Voice search is becoming increasingly popular due to the rise of intelligent home assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Voice search differs from typing queries into a search engine because users often ask more conversational questions in a natural language. Mobile users also prefer shorter, more direct answers to their queries optimized for voice search.

Mobile SEO vs. Desktop SEO: Location

Mobile phones are now equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS), giving search engines more precise location data to provide relevant search results. Even if a device does not have a GPS, there are other ways that mobile phones can give search engines location data, affecting search outcomes.

Thus, mobile search results will be better optimized for user location.

Location data also impacts desktop searches if the user is logged in to a Google account on both devices. Google weights location information higher on mobile searches, affecting the type of result shown. For example, you may be more likely to see a map result when searching for a restaurant from a phone than from a desktop.

Mobile SEO vs. Desktop: SERP Display

With the ever-increasing use of mobile devices, businesses must consider the device's size when designing content. For desktops, titles and meta descriptions appear as they are, but with mobile phones, they can get cut off.

On mobile devices, SERP displays tend to be shorter, with fewer results at the top of the page before a user scrolls. Thus, optimizing meta tags like title tags while keeping mobile and desktop character limits in mind is essential.

It would be best to guide your SERP optimization efforts based on whether a page receives more web or mobile traffic. Optimize your title and meta description based on device performance to fit the character limit.

Additionally, mobile SERPs are more likely to include mobile-friendly features such as local results and voice search commands. Thus optimize your website for local listing by adding the relevant schema markup code.

Mobile SEO vs. Desktop SEO: Rich Results Display

With less screen size on mobile, the information that appears on the SERP is condensed and prioritized differently. Mobile search tends to focus more on rich results, such as image and video results, and less on SERP features, such as knowledge panels and featured snippets. The SERP display on mobile devices is more minimalist than on desktop, prioritizing rich results.

Other SERP features, such as Landmarks, Things to Do, and Google My Business results, can occupy the space at the top of mobile SERP. It makes information easily accessible and pushes other organic search results further down the page.

In contrast, desktop search is more likely to show SERP features and fewer rich results.

Additionally, desktop search has more available screen real estate, meaning more SERP features can be displayed.

Mobile SERP vs. Desktop Paid Listings on SERPs

On mobile and desktop SERPs, paid listings are typically displayed at the top of search results above organic listings. However, mobile SERPs tend to have fewer paid listings than desktop, as they often need more screen real estate.

In addition, the look of a paid listing on mobile may be different, with images or more prominent titles to make them stand out on the small screen.

Mobile App Packs & Integration

Phone operating systems influence mobile search results. It is especially true if Google believes the query has app-oriented intent.

Search engines are more likely to display an app pack in this case. An app pack includes colorful grids of icons that connect straight to an app in the app store. Terms such as "run tracker," "fun game," and "image editor" tend to rank applications since they are connected with apps that people often use.

Google will only display app packs containing applications compatible with your phone's operating system, usually iOS or Android.

Because device operating systems only affect mobile search results, you won't be able to view these app bundles if you are browsing the internet from a desktop computer.

Mobile vs. Desktop SEO: Augmented Reality (AR)

Google’s addition of Augmented Reality (AR) as a search capability makes it essential to understand the differences between mobile and desktop SEO. With AR, users can use their device’s camera to access information quickly, making it even more critical for companies to understand how their content will appear on a mobile device.

Mobile search leverages augmented reality (AR) by overlaying content over the physical world, which customers can access/interact with through their devices.

For example, customers could use their device to scan a QR code or open a link, triggering an AR experience. It could be anything from an interactive 3D product visualization to an AI-powered virtual assistant.

According to a study by Statista, 1.7 billion people will be using augmented reality by 2024. However, with a desktop, you cannot utilize the AR functionality, which might lead to losing customers.

Why are Mobile & Desktop Search Rankings Different?

Mobile and desktop rankings can differ due to several factors, such as device type, user experience, and geographic location. Search engine algorithms consider each element when determining which sites should rank higher in search results.

For example, a user on a mobile device may have a different experience than someone using a desktop device, which can influence the rankings. Additionally, search engines might consider a user’s location when deciding which sites to rank higher.

Web admins can track the differences in Google Search Console using its Performance report. It allows admins to compare their mobile and desktop performance and rankings for specific keywords.

Additionally, admins can use this report to identify potential problems with their website, such as slow loading times, broken links, and crawl errors. With the Performance report, admins can stay informed about the changes in their rankings to ensure their website appears as high as possible for specific keywords.

Mobile and Desktop SEO Strategies

Mobile and desktop SEO are two important aspects of search engine optimization that deserve equal consideration when developing an SEO strategy. With Google's mobile-first indexing approach, optimizing a website's mobile and desktop versions is more important than ever to be competitive and thrive in search engine rankings.

Let us look at the top mobile SEO and desktop strategies businesses should adopt:

1. Mobile Keyword Research: To succeed in mobile SEO, it is essential to understand which keywords are being searched by mobile users. It requires in-depth keyword research to identify mobile-specific keywords and those used by desktop users.

If your website sees much traffic from mobile devices, create new pages to target mobile-specific keyword clusters.

2. Ensuring Mobile-Friendly Content: Optimize content for improved search engine visibility and user experience. The content elements, such as images, videos, and text, should be the correct size and manageable to load a website quickly on a mobile device.

3. Tracking Mobile and Desktop User Engagement: Advanced analytics tracking tools such as Google Analytics and Heat maps can help identify how mobile and desktop users interact with your content. It will assist the companies in optimizing the user experience across devices.

4. Optimize Title and Meta Description: All titles and meta descriptions should be optimized to ensure they are relevant to mobile users and contain the necessary keywords to maximize search engine visibility. The character limits for mobile and desktop vary, so optimize for both.

5. Enhanced Website Speed: Website speed is critical for mobile and desktop users, as slow-loading pages can hurt SEO and user engagement. Companies should undertake regular website speed tests to ensure they run at their best.

6. Optimize for Local SEO: Optimizing for local SEO is essential for businesses, as local searches are increasing on mobile devices. Companies should use local keywords and ensure their local business profile is up-to-date.

7. User-friendly Website Design: Ensuring a website is easy to use on all devices is vital in optimizing for mobile and desktop SEO. Providing simple navigation and page layouts can positively impact user engagement. Companies are optimizing their website design for mobile use by ensuring responsiveness.

Keeping up with the latest SEO strategies and staying current with Google's algorithm changes can help businesses ensure their sites succeed in rankings.

Final Thoughts on Mobile vs. Desktop SEO

Mobile SEO and desktop SEO are critical aspects of a successful search engine optimization strategy. Mobile SEO ensures users can access your website easily on their phones, while desktop SEO optimizes your website to appeal to desktop users.

Mobile SEO focuses on page speed, structure, and user experience. Additionally, pay attention to the content and design of your website—the user should be able to navigate your website easily and quickly. Local search and voice search optimization are critical for mobile SEO.

Desktop SEO is centered on optimizing the website for search engine crawlers, ensuring that your website is properly indexed and categorized. For desktop SEO to be successful, website structure and content are vital components.

Finally, remember to optimize for both mobile and desktop devices. By optimizing for both, you can reach a broader target audience and rank higher on search engine results pages.

With technology constantly advancing, staying ahead of the competition and ensuring that your website is optimized no matter the device used is essential. Quattr can help you optimize your website for mobile and desktop SEO, allowing you to stay ahead of the competition. With its comprehensive list of capabilities, Quattr can help improve your website's SERP visibility to maximize ROI from your SEO efforts.

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Mobile vs. Desktop SEO FAQs

What is the difference between mobile and desktop search results?

On mobile devices, search results provide users with quick information. As a result, Google will break up listings into images, videos, ratings, and more to make it easier for users to browse. Text-based listings are more commonly used on a desktop because users have more time to review the results. No matter the device, the website ranking in the search results mostly stays the same.

Is mobile SEO different from desktop SEO?

Yes, mobile SEO is different from desktop SEO. Mobile users typically have other search habits, device capabilities, and behavior than desktop users. Unlike on a desktop, mobile SEO depends on the user's location, screen size, search behavior, SERP rankings, etc.

Does Google rank by mobile or desktop?

Google ranks websites by both mobile and desktop. Google uses a mobile-first indexing system that allows them to look at the mobile version of a website first when determining rankings. So web admins should design their websites with mobile-first indexing in mind and create a dedicated mobile version of their site.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 10 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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