Do Different Things Impact SEO For Mobile Versus Desktop Searches?

How Geographic Location and More May Impact an SEO Audit

Jesse and Sue answer a listener question this week about desktop SEO versus Mobile SEO. Is there a difference in how your business can rank online between these two? Can certain factors weigh in to your ranking when auditing your SEO on your own or using a tool? These questions and more are answered so you can be better equipped to discover actionable metrics to improve your online presence.

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Transcript For Do Different Things Impact SEO For Mobile Versus Desktop Searches? – 150

Jesse Dolan: From Google’s standpoint, if I’m doing a search on mobile, there are things they’re going to take into account when they show me the results that are going to be maybe a little different than if I was doing it on desktop.

Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, here again with Sue Ginsburg. How’s it going today, Sue?

Sue Ginsburg: Hi. Really good. Really good, thanks.

Jesse Dolan: What do you got on tap for us here today? I know we’re going to answer a question like we all always do. I think you got a good one.

Sue Ginsburg: It’s a great question that came in from our SEO audit. The question is, do different things impact SEO on desktop and on mobile? Are there different tools to use for SEO impact on each? Thank you to Becky, a listener and a listener who used our SEO audit tool. Thank you. Thank you for that. And I am sure that this is a question that many more people than just Becky have had. That’s what we’ll be talking about today.

Jesse Dolan: Cool.

Sue Ginsburg: Quote of the day, “Work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” That is a quote from Napoleon Hill. He is most known as the bestselling author of Think and Grow Rich, which by the way is among the 10 bestselling self help books of all times.

Jesse Dolan: Right on, as it should be.

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah, that’s right. If you haven’t already read that, give a little plug for Napoleon Hill’s book.

Today I’m going to share a self deprecating story to set this up before Jesse answers the question here.

Jesse Dolan: Should be good. Everybody get on the edge of your seat here. Let’s hear this.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s right. That’s right. A few years ago I learned to ride a moped, not a motorcycle 250, 500cc’s, a 50cc moped. The kind that I always think of the witch in the Wizard of Oz riding. No, that was a bicycle. Strike that. Anyway, it’s a 50cc scooter. Really fun, great thing to do. And I was going on an adventure with a friend who has been riding scooters and motorcycles for many, many years and he was leading. I was new to scootering, if that’s the verb and much more comfortable letting him lead the way so I could focus on what to do to keep my scooter running without crashing into anything or anyone. Fair enough. I was concentrating hard.

When we got where we were going, probably Dairy Queen, one of my favorite summer destinations, I very excitedly told him, I couldn’t believe how smoothly my scooter rode even at 50 miles per hour. And he looked at me like I was crazy and he laughed. And he said, “Your odometer is kilometers not miles.” I was like, “Oh God.” Then I do the math in my head, 50 km are 30 miles an hour, not 50, which that’s a big difference.

Jesse Dolan: Sure it felt like 50 but yeah.

Sue Ginsburg: Oh my God, yes it did. Yes it did. I share this story to make the point that if you’re using the wrong tool to measure something, your interpretation of your metrics may very well not be what you think.

Jesse Dolan: Right on.

Sue Ginsburg: And I have another self deprecating story along this lines. I’d love for some of our listeners to tell me that I’m not the only one who gets kilometers and MPH, miles per hour mixed up. Because I confess that this was not my first time. A few years ago when my daughter studied abroad in South Africa, I was lucky enough to go visit her in Cape Town where I rented a car. And yes, for the weeks before I was practicing how to do a stick shift with my right hand so that when I got there, driving on the left side of the road doing a stick shift with my right hand wasn’t all new at once.

As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the signs obviously used metrics not miles. With my baseline being, I knew a 10k is six miles. I spent my visit doing math in my head every time I needed to figure out how far ahead is that exit? Oh, how many kilometers is that? How many miles is that? I was so mentally exhausted every time I drove the car that trip. It was very humbling. For all of you business owners who drive on the left side, use a stick shift with your right hand and know the metric system, you have my respect.

Jesse Dolan: That makes me think too right away. I only have mastered barely the English language. I don’t know a second language. I know a few curse words in various languages but that’s about it. But I’m always amazed at people that know two languages, in this case, how you’re deciphering that in your head. I’m always like, how could I possibly try to communicate with say in Spanish while trying to translate in my head? And it’s like, no, once you know it, you kind of become ingrained with it. You don’t kind of translate that if you’re actually fluent, you just speak it. And so I’m getting the same vibes from me there. I can just imagine driving around doing that same computations, brain just hurting after a couple days of driving around. That’s pretty good.

Sue Ginsburg: Great words there. Yes, my brain was hurting. With that as a little background, tell us Jesse, does having your mobile site and your desktop tested on for SEO impact, do different things impact them?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, I think it is a good question and not so much framing it up, is there certain tools for testing SEO on mobile testing, SEO on desktop but really the question being, do different things impact the SEO for mobile versus desktop? I think that’s kind of the core of it. And the answer is yes, there are some variations on whether you call it the SEO, the practice of SEO and the things we do as SEOs and marketers to rank our websites differently in mobile versus on desktop. There’s a little bit of it that’s that, yes, some things you should do to be aware of. But then kind of the other part here I want to talk about is also how Google will show different things based on if you’re doing a search on mobile versus desktop. And in some cases that doesn’t mean you can necessarily do anything different. It’s just Google showing different things for different reasons here. Let’s go through it though.

First things first is yes, it’s not a guarantee. It doesn’t always happen, but yes, there is a chance that your content may rank differently on mobile and on desktop. We’re not talking drastic rankings like your first on mobile and completely disappeared on desktop. I would expect it to be within a spot or two or three jostling around a little bit. Whether you’re talking in the naturals or in the map pack, that might be a little bit different in the natural for your web rankings on the SERP, search engine results page, that I would feel should be a little bit more. A little less fluctuation on desktop top versus mobile search. But you start talking about the map pack, obviously there’s a whole lot of proximity type stuff that we’re going to talk about in a minute that can impact that. That may be more volatile on desktop versus mobile search. You might have different views on that. Yes, your content can rank, your rankings can be different on mobile versus desktop. First things first.

One of the biggest factors for this is really the personalization of search results. And then when you add on a lot of factors with mobile, usually for a desktop search, for myself as an example, my desktop is here, my laptop is here at my desk in my office at home. And any searches I do from there, 99% of time that’s where it’s at. This IP address, this location and so it’s fairly stable in that regard as far as Google has hundreds of things that it uses to personalize your search, your history, your location, preferences, et cetera. But the geographic location of my desktop search is pretty static.

Mobile, that thing’s in my pocket. Whether I’m going into town, whether I’m traveling somewhere, whatever. If I’m doing searches from mobile, my proximity to these places completely changes. And that’s going to be one of the biggest factors in the personalization and the change on what’s ranking for mobile.

Sue Ginsburg: Interesting.

Jesse Dolan: We use a tool, we’ve talked about it before and we’re going to plug it here in this episode, BrightLocal, for their geo grid reporting for GMB ranking. As an example here, what that’s going to show you, let’s just say, if you take a nine by nine grid of a metro area, it’s going to show you if you’re standing in that spot, how does your GBP, I should say now, how does your GBP rank for a search term if you’re standing in that location? If you’re on the northeast corner of town versus the southwest corner of town, you may be ranking completely different. And that really underscores and shows how much the proximity or the geolocation matters on mobile search.

With this, that’s going to be one of the biggest things that makes a difference on how you’re ranking on mobile versus desktop is mobile you’re on a mobile device, on a smartphone if you will, you literally are mobile. You’re moving, your proximity changes, given the location of you as the searcher versus the thing you’re trying to find. You’re always going to have that be a big factor if you as a person are doing the exact same search on those two different devices, you’re going to see a big change because of that.

Now I’m not going to dive into really any other personalization type deals. But again, you can imagine there’s certain preferences, search history on your phone you might be doing versus what was on your desktop. All these things play into exaggerating any differences or are factors in those differences. Overall personalization and your geolocation can make a big difference on what’s going to rank mobile versus not. That does underscore the importance of using a tool BrightLocal and their geo search grid, not just a regular keyword tracker for rank checking, like hey, red balloons Minneapolis, what’s my ranking broadly for Minneapolis versus those pinpoint spots, over a five or 10 mile radius. Because that is one of the biggest factors that can make a difference.

Now, in addition to that, turning towards more, what does Google give more influence on for mobile versus desktop from a user standpoint? That first part was more of me as the person behind in the keyboard, what am I doing? And how am I impacting what I see in search based off me doing the search? Now from Google’s standpoint, if I’m doing a search on mobile, there are things they’re going to take into account when they show me the results that are going to be maybe a little different than if I was doing it on desktop. Page speed of a website, Google came out a while ago talking about how important page speed is for ranking as a factor and that on mobile, it’s even more important. Now, if you’re in a major city and maybe you got 5G or as broadband gets faster with cell service, speed isn’t as big of a factor. But speaking globally, for sure, there’s still a lot of areas that have 3G type speed. Mobile page loading, the speed that your pages load on your mobile phone is a big thing and you need a fast loading website.

If you’re selling a product or a service that you’re pretty sure most people are checking out on mobile devices, which is probably almost anything out there, page speed is definitely a big thing that you need to be aware of to make sure you’re ranking and mobile. And like we’ve always talked on multiple episodes too, people should definitely, in addition to using maybe a BrightLocal or other type of trackers, do searches yourself on desktop and mobile to kind of see the difference in these things, particularly shut off your wifi on your phone and just go off your cell service and just see how that thing loads compared. Even if you’re not going to use some testing tools for page speed and things like that and you will see how the experience can change off a slower broadband connection versus a high speed wifi connection that you might be tied into at your office or at your home.

Hey everyone, just wanted a quick interrupt on the show here to talk about BrightLocal. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go on out to or you can go to our resources page. Scroll through that, which has a bunch of different resources that we recommend and use ourselves and look for the mentions about BrightLocal. There’s a lot of things BrightLocal does. We use it in house. It’s one of our favorite tools. We mainly use it for their rank tracking for your website. You can kind of monitor your keyword progress, tracking the ranks, fluctuations, things like at that over time for specific keywords that you enter in. We also love their local search grid tool for your Google My Business or Google business profile listing. And what that’s going to do is show you over your metro area, whatever you select for the size of the grid, with seven by seven points, nine by nine. Basically you define a certain area and it’s going to tell you if you were standing on those spots, how does your GMB rank for the specified keywords?

That’s great as well. We also use it for citation building, citation management for all your properties and mentions out there, whether it be Yelp, Facebook, local city pages, BBB, things like that. It’s a great tool to help build and manage to your citations to make sure your name, address, phone number is consistent and all those other things to really get your digital footprint identified by Google. They also have reputation management where you can aggregate all the reviews that you’re getting across all these different portals. See how many reviews you’re getting, what your score is, things like that. And also other tools. Check it out. They’ve got a free 14 day trial. If you go through or again, go to the link off of our resources page, you’re going to be able to take advantage of that 14 day trial.

It is an affiliate link. We’ll get a few bucks if you do that. Doesn’t increase the price for you at all. Just kind of makes the tide rise for everybody. If you’re interested in any of those applications, like I said, they’ve got a whole suite of tools that’s going to help you out. Whether you’re an agency or if you’re doing SEO for yourself. I should mention if you are an agency or trying to start an agency, they also have some great white label options so you can leverage their tools and their products for your clients to showcase the analytics, the data and give a real professional spin on your reporting, which is something we use as well. Check it out, and take advantage of their 14 day trial.

Page speed is definitely a big factor for ranking and even bigger when it’s on a mobile based search. User experience is also another one that really can impact mobile. Things like that, what do we mean? Big buttons that you can click on, making sure people don’t hit two things at once with big fat sausage fingers, things like that. You got to make it friendly to viewers on mobile. And by that I don’t mean the responsive design, where it fits the page. That should be pretty much default now for most websites. They should be responsive and mobile friendly from a fitting on the page standpoint. I’m talking about the clickable elements, the buttons, the links, making sure that you can use your fingers to navigate that website instead of a mouse like on your desktop. Again, going back as developers, marketers and SEOs, we want to be testing our sites on mobile.

Usually we develop them on desktop. We’re sitting there, we’re working, we’re at our machine but you want to test it on mobile for these kinds of things so you can get first hand experience on it. It’s friendly in that regard. Also from the user experience standpoint, which can impact your rankings are things like popups. If your information is important to the top of your screen on desktop, maybe you add a big popup, like get 15% off your first order and it looks good on desktop and it’s attractive and enticing. On mobile, maybe that takes up the whole screen and people can’t even scroll anymore. And they’re looking for this little bitty X to close the popup. They may just get frustrated and back out. And that’s going to impact your bounce rate. That’s going to impact the quality of your website. Then over time if a lot of people are getting frustrated, backing out, guess what? Google’s going to demote your website because people aren’t finding it as a good result.

Indirect but these kinds of things, these user experience things definitely over the long run can impact the ranking of your website. And you’re going to want to pay attention to those on mobile. On desktop that really won’t matter as much. If people are doing desktop searches but if people are doing that same search on a mobile device, that’s again where you’re going to see maybe your website’s starting to rank lower because of that if you’re not up to speed in those areas.

I’d say that’s probably in some of the biggest things without getting too speculative and opinionated, those are pretty well known if you will, in the SEO industry. Reinforced by Google as real things. Not a lot of speculation here on those things that we described. Just focusing on mobile to rank higher and mobile, what makes an impact there for your SEO? User experience, page speed and then just being that your GBP may show up differently based on the proximity where people are and that’s a whole nother topic there on how to influence your proximity and, rank high and get a bigger reach with your GBP, but definitely something to be aware of on the mobile side, I’m sorry, on the desktop side. I mean, there isn’t really anything that you would do special to rank higher on a desktop search, right? This, the conversation is a little slanted towards how to get more optimization for mobile really there, and what impacts the mobile ranking more than the desktop. So hopefully that is a good enough answer, Sue, is that what you’re looking for to we cover the bases there?

Sue Ginsburg: I think that sounds great. I have a question for you. You mentioned things like the size of the button and some other things that affect the user experience when you’re on mobile, especially when you’re designing a website in order to make it mobile, responsive or responsive for, for all screens. Yeah. Do you need to design differently when you’re thinking about that or you do the same design and make sure that it shows up well on both.

Jesse Dolan: It’s a great question. I’d say, as a default have it in mind, keep reinforcing yourself that people are going to view this on mobile probably the majority of the time and things like fancy animations or things that if you’re on the desktop this is a really wide screen, big image, just keep reminding yourself, check that out on mobile too. Design it for mobile first really is the best rule of thumb. Now particularly if you’re in the business to business space, you can still get a lot of traffic on desktop. People are at work, and now they’re looking for your product and your service at work on a desktop or on a laptop so you may want to do some things that look better on the bigger screens than in mobile. But most websites, especially if you’re in WordPress are going to be automatically responsive.

To your point, you don’t have to design it to be responsive. These things should happen automatically and I don’t know that you need to take any special steps other than making sure you’re checking it out on mobile to see how it looks and then go back and change your design accordingly. It’s a little bit of chicken in the egg type deal. Where do you start first? Do we start making it for mobile and then also look good on desktop? Or do we start creating it in desktop and then continually checking it in mobile to make sure that it’s working good there and playing good there too. I think that’s going to be preference of the designer.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s super. You bring up I think a super interesting point that most people we know do their searches on mobile but most people probably to the same, even higher than 90% are designing websites on a desktop.

Jesse Dolan: Oh yeah. Yep. Yep. And that’s something we talk about internally here at Intrycks or for the designers, anybody messing with page content is we can’t just look at it on a laptop and high five each other, “Hey, that looks great.” Okay, check it out on mobile. Is that going to be good on a mobile experience?

And in some we like to design where it’s the same thing shown both ways, it’s just a responsive design but there is another layer you can add there as a designer where you can show or hide things based on a screen size. It’s like, okay, maybe we have this nice hero image here on desktop but if it’s on mobile, it’s going to be a different image that’s shown. Personally I like to shy away from that just because I like more simplicity and keeping it uniform, that way you never have to remember to update both things but there’s the ability to manipulate it there too, which adds a little more complication.

Sue Ginsburg: Wow. That’s wild.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I think moral of the story there is definitely check it on both from a design standpoint. And then again, when it’s working good there, that’s going to help your rankings on mobile.

Sue Ginsburg: Really, really interesting. Really great question and really interesting insights that you shared. Wow. It’s kind of like you have to think of everything in order to get it to be good on both. It’s not just whatever you’re working on. I wonder if there is anybody for whatever reason who’s ever designed a website on a mobile phone and why?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I’d like to talk to them. I’m sure it was an extremely painful process. A lot of the tools, if you will quote unquote or the WordPress backend.

I’ve personally done quick edits, changing text and things but to actually design a website on mobile would, man that’s got to be pretty clunky. Pretty clunky.
Sue Ginsburg: Yeah. Okay listeners, if you know anybody who’s ever done that, please let us know and then let us know why they were doing on their phone not on a desktop.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. If they had a choice, if you didn’t have a choice, all right kind understand that story but if you’re choosing to do it on your iPhone let’s talk, pick your brain.

Sue Ginsburg: Maybe Guinness World Book material.

Jesse Dolan: I don’t know.

Sue Ginsburg: I don’t know.

Jesse Dolan: That’s maybe a new category.

Sue Ginsburg: I don’t know.

Jesse Dolan: You should do it, Sue.

Sue Ginsburg: Okay. Thank you for those insights and for our listeners, if you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this. Yes, different things impact SEO on mobile or desktop because your experience on mobile or desktop is different, right down to where you are. Even if you consider the near me feature, which you mentioned, Jesse, obviously on your desktop that’s going to be the same each and every time that are doing a search, where on your phone, it’s going to be all different places, which also means Google storing different history in your phone, which is going to impact what shows up, et cetera, et cetera.

User experience, page speed and the whole impact of near me that Google runs are some of the things that you mentioned that impact that. But most importantly, yes, they are different. Whichever one you’re designing on, test for both. Probably testing more on mobile and especially since most searches these days and getting even more are done on mobile.

Jesse Dolan: 100%

Sue Ginsburg: Before I get back to the quote of the day and how that applies to today’s discussion, shout out to anybody who lives in Cape Town because while I was there confusing my mind on metrics versus miles per hour and miles, Cape Town is the most beautiful city I have ever been in with the oceans and the mountains and really, really beautiful. Lucky you, whoever you are, if you get to live in Cape Town.

Jesse Dolan: Nice.

Sue Ginsburg: Okay. Quote of the day, “Whatever work, whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” Thank you, Napoleon Hill. Plug for his book, Think and Grow Rich and plug on the SEO front to test your website on your desktop, on your iPad, on your mobile and make sure that it works well on each of those before you launch.

Jesse Dolan: Right on. Good stuff, Sue. If you guys are out there listening, you gals are out there listening too, if you like what we’re talking about here, if this topic spurs any questions you have. If you’re like, oh, if they would just answer this one part, go further on that. Whatever it is or if you’ve got something else out of left field, that’s what we’re here for. Go to, scroll down to the bottom, click the button to submit a question. You can type it in and we’ll talk about it on the show. Or you can call the number that’s listed there, leave a voicemail and we’ll play the audio on the show. If you do that, we’re going to send you off a free Intrycks t-shirt and of course let you get a shout out on the show and answer your question. Good stuff, Sue. Thanks for setting that one up and providing the insights and hope that helps everybody listening out and we’ll talk to everybody on the next show. Take care.

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