Difference Between Mobile and Desktop Rankings



4/7/20213 min read

Magnifying glass on PC screen analyzing mobile vs. desktop rankings.
Magnifying glass on PC screen analyzing mobile vs. desktop rankings.

According to Google's John Mueller, there is a curious explanation for the discrepancies in search rankings between mobile and desktop devices. Mueller suggested that personalization may play a role in causing the variations between the two types of searches.

What Causes Differences in Search Rankings Between Desktop and Mobile?

The individual who posed the inquiry was curious about understanding how to identify the cause behind a website's potential underperformance in mobile search compared to desktop search.

The question is:

The question arises, how do desktop and mobile rankings differ now that we have been switched to mobile-first indexing?

According to John Mueller from Google, indexing and ranking are distinct processes.

Despite being in a mobile-first indexing setting, it should not be assumed that the mobile and desktop versions will receive the same ranking since they were indexed as mobile.


Mobile first indexing refers to the technical process of indexing content, utilizing a mobile Googlebot. However, the ranking aspect remains largely separate from the indexing process once the content has been indexed.

Personalization of Mobile and Desktop Rankings Based on Context

According to Mueller, rankings can be affected by the searcher's context and the device they use in certain situations.

According to him, the requirements of users may vary depending on the device, which can impact search rankings for certain queries.

Understanding the Differences Between Mobile and Desktop Searches, as Explained by John Mueller

According to Mueller:

It is typical for there to be variations in rankings between desktop and mobile devices. These differences can be due to factors such as loading speed or mobile optimization. Additionally, the elements displayed on the search results page may vary. For instance, on a phone, local information may be prioritized for users on the go, while on a desktop, images and videos may be emphasized. As a result, we may present a different combination of search result types.

Consequently, it is not uncommon for the ranking or visibility of specific pages to differ between mobile and desktop. This is a normal aspect of our ranking process and is not related to the technical aspects of indexing content.

Differences in Ranking Due to Page Speed and Mobile Factors

The individual who posed the initial question then proceeded to inquire further about identifying the discrepancies in these rankings.

The individual inquired about the possibility that a decrease in mobile rankings could be attributed to issues with mobile page speed.

According to Mueller from Google:

The importance of mobile friendliness should not be underestimated. Other factors may also come into play, particularly when it comes to mobile and desktop usage. These differences are often present in search results for both platforms. It could be due to the device being used or the type of internet connection, resulting in different customization settings being applied.

Personalization is the Reason for Variances in Rankings

According to John Mueller from Google, it has been confirmed that mobile indexing is a distinct process from the ranking aspect of the algorithm.

The speaker also disclosed that customization is a factor in the intermittent variations in search results between mobile and desktop searches.

According to Mueller, the needs of an individual using a mobile device may vary compared to those of a person using a desktop device.

When attempting to determine the cause of variations in rankings among devices, it could be beneficial to examine why the mobile versions of top-ranked sites are favored over the lower-ranked pages on a mobile device with personalized settings.

There is a potential for finding hints in that location that could aid in diagnosing the problems.

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