Websites Risk Losing Search Discovery If Mobile Optimization is not a Priority

More than a third of mobile web search results vary from desktop, with up to a 43 percent difference in results according to Searchmetrics US Google Ranking Factors 2014 Study

San Mateo, CA – October 11, 2014__Google results vary widely on mobile devices– from as low as 20 percent to as high as 43 percent difference for individual search queries — in comparison to identical searches via desktops and laptops, according to new research announced by Searchmetrics, the leading global enterprise search experience optimization platform.

The data, which is based on the comparison of several thousand keyword searches, indicates that more than a third (36%) of web destinations (URLs) shown in mobile search results are different from those that appear for the same searches carried out on a desktop or laptop. On average, nearly a quarter (23%) were even results from completely different websites (domains).

Rather than typing a complex URL on a small, on-screen keyboard, search has become the quickest and easiest route to finding information on a mobile phone, which is backed by Google estimating that mobile queries grew five-fold in the last two years. The difference offers a wake up call for brands that rely on search discovery for new customers and sales.

“Google is increasingly focused on the intent and context of search queries,” said Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics’ founder and CTO. “It understands that these vary between devices, and consequently delivers results quite differently on mobile phones and traditional computers. For mobile searches it has additional information about the searcher, such as their location, which also impacts the results it delivers. Our research demonstrates that marketers need to focus on different areas if they are to increase visibility on smartphones.”

The Searchmetrics study also indicates that mobile search results on Google.com tend to include pages with fewer backlinks from other sites than the results for the same searches on desktop and laptop. This makes sense because mobile content generates fewer adhoc links, as mobile users are much less likely to link to dedicated mobile pages, preferring to share/like through social media.

“The difference in number of links occurs particularly because many companies use dedicated mobile pages.  If more companies start using responsive design – which automatically optimizes the same page to suit different devices – you wouldn’t see fewer or even no overall differences in backlinks or social links because it’s the same URLs,” explained Tober.

Mobile results also tend to display pages with a smaller file size on average than those delivered on desktop or laptop. Smaller pages will be quicker to download on a mobile and use less of a phone subscriber’s data allowance.
“With the volume of mobile searches increasing rapidly, marketers and SEO teams need to be aware of how their pages rank in mobile results, and understand the factors that correlate with higher positions ‒ as they are not necessarily the same as for desktop SEO,” concluded Tober.

The findings, based on an analysis of Google.com search results for ten thousand relevant informational and transactional keywords, are focused on the first 30 results. The detailed report, which outlines the full results from the wider Searchmetrics US Ranking Factors 2014 study, can be downloaded here. And an infographic highlighting the key findings can be found here. The report contains an extract from a larger, more comprehensive mobile study, which will be released in fall 2014.

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