Google’s John Mueller answered an interesting question about why mobile and desktop search rankings can vary. Mueller provided several personalization-related factors to explain why the two types of searches are sometimes different.

Why are desktop and mobile search rankings different?

The questioner was interested in learning how to diagnose the reason why a site might not work as well for mobile search as it did for desktop search.

Here is the question:

“Why … How do desktop and mobile device rankings differ once we’ve already moved to the mobile directory?”

Google’s John Mueller pointed out that indexing and ranking are two different things.

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Just because we’re indexed on mobile devices doesn’t mean that mobile and desktop versions are classified equally because they’re indexed as mobile versions.

Mueller:

“So mobile first indexing is specifically about the technical side of content indexing.

And we index content with the mobile Googlebot.

But once the content is indexed, the investment side is still (sort of) completely separate. “

Mobile and desktop investments are tailored to the context

Mueller next explained that in some situations, the context of the searcher and the device used may change the placement.

He explained that in some searches, user needs are different depending on the device and can affect rankings.

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John Mueller explains why mobile and desktop searches are different

Mueller explained:

“And it’s normal for desktops and mobile devices to rank differently.

Sometimes it is about speed.

Sometimes it is about mobile friendliness, for example.

Sometimes this also applies to the different elements that appear on the search results page.

For example, if you’re searching on your phone, you might want to learn more about local information because you’re on the go.

If you are searching from your desktop, you may want to add images or more videos to your search results.
So we tend to show … a different combination of different search result types.

And because of this, it can happen that the ranking or visibility of individual pages varies between mobile devices and desktops.

And that’s basically normal. That is part of how we invest.

I would say it is not tied to the technical side of content indexing. “

Page speed and mobile factors to accommodate differences

The questioner then asked a follow-up question on diagnosing these investment differences.

He asked whether low mobile phone rankings are an indication that mobile page speed factors are the cause.

Google Mueller replied:

“… Mobile phone friendliness is definitely a factor.

There may be other factors as well, especially with regard to mobile phone and desktop.

These are the kind of differences that are always a little bit about mobile and desktop search results.

Sometimes it’s also just because it’s a different device or a different Internet connection, so we use different settings mainly for personalization. “

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The difference in investments is due to personalization

Google’s John Mueller confirmed that a mobile directory is just an indexing and separate from the ranking part of the algorithm.

He also revealed that personalization plays a role in the occasional differences between mobile searches and desktop searches.

Mueller explained that the needs of someone on a mobile device may differ from the needs of a user on a desktop.

So if you’re trying to diagnose why there are differences in placement between devices, it can be helpful to see why the mobile versions of the top-ranked sites may be better than the lower-ranked pages in terms of mobile device and personalization.

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It is possible that there may be hints for diagnosing problems.

Reference

Why mobile and desktop rankings differ from mobile indexing in the first place
See how John Mueller answers the question at 49:10

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