Why the Ranking Difference on Mobile and Desktop Devices?

It can be confusing if I tell you ranking on mobile search is different from ranking on the desktop search.

In other words, the potential results on desktop queries might be different from the ones you got when you search on mobile phones.

After all, you're asking Google the same question. So why is the difference?

In reality, the results can differ but not in all cases.

It's safe to say there is usually no significant difference between ranking on either platform for the same keywords.

But since there is, we may need to look at why and what to consider if you're a content marketer who wants to bridge the gap between the ranking on mobile devices and desktop computers/laptops.

Understanding the Difference in the Ranking on Desktop and Mobile Devices

Look at the search results below.

This is a desktop Google search screenshot.

What did you see?

Can you notice the keywords searched?

The first result was in the snippet and that's a post from missinglettr.com.

Now, look at the result below.

This was a mobile search result.

Did you notice the same keywords?

In fact, the searches were made on the two platforms at the same time (maybe 3 secs difference).

Did you see the difference in the results?

The mobile result was an ad, followed by a post from another website wpbeginner.com

In fact, this mobile result was at the third position on the desktop results, at the time of this post.

Why the difference? How possible?

Answers to these questions will be covered in the rest of the post.

However, for now, just don't argue the fact that search results on Google (and other search engines) may differ between mobile devices and desktop computers or laptops.

Google and Other Search Engines are Guilty of Tailoring Results

For privacy reasons, search engines should allow results to come up based on the keywords and intent only.

This will allow the publishers to enjoy their effort to bring the best to the searchers and will as well not limit the searchers from having access to the very best results.

However, this is not the order of the day by several search engines out there, especially our dear Google.

These search engines are guilty of tailoring results based on certain factors. The keywords and intent are just more important. However, search histories, locations, platforms, time of the search, and many other mini factors may affect your results.

I'll be talking about these in the rest of the post though. Yet, there is the need to blame these search engines for your confusion.

Except for a few, such as Duckduckgo. which has been well recommended for taking your privacy seriously in displaying results, literally all other search engines will think they're smarter in showing you results they "perceived" are the best for you.

A quick look at results from Duckduckgo for the same keywords "what to know before blogging" shows different results entirely.

Of course, I hardly use this search engine on my computer. Yet, if the antecedent of not tracking your activities using it to tailor your results, is anything to go by, that could be the reason for the entirely different results.

The Difference Between the Desktop Rank and Mobile Rank Maybe Your Fault

I've blamed the search engines for the variances. Yet, I still have more to say about their user-tailored results.

But here, let's bring you in. If you're a publisher, the difference in the results on mobile and desktop results may be partly or entirely your fault.

Let's look at a few cases.

1. There Will be Difference in Ranking For Mobile Adaptiveness of Your Pages

Google has warned you to be mobile-conscious while propagating its mobile-first ranking campaign. This doesn't leave other search engines out as they all want the best for their users.

A search engine may be picky about the results to show for mobile users if the supposed-to-be-ranked post is not mobile-friendly. 

Whereas, the same result will stand right at the top if searched on the desktop.

There is probably no website that's not desktop screen compatible but, to date, a few websites are still lagging behind in mobile adaptability.

2. Page Speed on Either Platforms May Affect Ranking

Similar to the mobile responsiveness of a website and its pages is the speed of your website and its pages.

When the last did you check the speed of your website? If not recently, use any of the available tools to check your status.

The score may tell you why the discrepancy.

Search engines take the loading time more seriously for mobile results. That doesn't mean your website can just load slower on the desktop screen. 

You should just understand mobile users are much more in a hurry. They need to be served faster.

Why Difference in Mobile and Desktop Ranking is Search Enginees' Fault

While search engines are helping your content with organic traffic, they have the interest of their users more in mind.

This is why they tend to tailor things to the best use of their users. Although in the line of doing that, some results may be compromised.

Why giving results, below are the factors that may determine if there will be differences in results on mobile devices and desktop.

1. Ads, Landmarks, and Google My Business May Change Ranking on Mobile

In the first two screenshots (earlier shown), did you notice there was an ad in the mobile results which was not shown on the desktop results?

Here, Google prefers showing ads on the mobile device. Hence, instead of the result being at the top, they're greeted with the ads. 

Similar to that is where Google is likely to show Landmarks and addresses, before displaying results on mobile devices. 

See such below.

Whereas, the same search engine may use the right corner of your screening to display the same information (instead of above the results) if on the desktop.

See the same result on the desktop search.

2. Cookies and Caches Return the Same Website for Returning Visitors

Search engines (using your users' histories of queries) may feed you results on different platforms based on your past activities on the web - using the same device. 

Don't forget you still have your mobile and desktop device cookies and cashes uncleared. This information may be used to tailor what to show you, first and last, even with the same keywords.

Have you noticed that Google tended to show you results, most frequently, from websites you'd visited in the past? This would also happen if you'd recently subscribed to a website that had the information you're just asking for. Or you'd once shared its content, printed or bookmarked its pages.

3. Search Engines Feed Results "Location" Which is More Achievable with Mobile

Results can be tailored based on the location of the searchers. We don't have to go into the details here.

As long as your device's Internet Protocol (IP) and Global Positioning System (GPS) are not hidden, search engines know where you're searching from and give results based on that location. 

Of course, publishers from your side of the world, should understand your problems and solve them better.

4. Operating System Impact Results for Mobile and Desktop

A few well-known operating systems, we all use, include the Andriod, IOS, Windows, etc. Search engines read the platforms to decide the right results.

If you're seeking answers to Android-related issues on IOS, for instance, the search engine may show you results of solutions for apps that are being used on the two operating systems instead of Windows.

5. Google Dance May Influence Ranking on Mobile and Desktop

Remember I searched the keywords above at almost the same time (with a few secs difference). The time of searching for the keywords may change the ranking.

Google and other search engines never stop crawling and recrawling content. The effect of such regular activities and updates is to change the ranking.

A result, right at number 1 in the last five minutes, may move to number 3 now. Google performs are an average of two updates per day - among which include are algorithms that usually shuffle ranking.

This may be a reason you have different results on either platform. However, this should be temporary as they should be in the same position sooner or later.


As a publisher, you may not have direct control over the location of your readers, the devices they use, the operating system, algorithms updates, and more. You can still influence your website template, improve the speed, write with mobile users in mind, and more.

The summary is, even where there will be differences in the ranking of your content, between the mobile and desktop device, it shouldn't be too significant. At least, if your post can retain the first-page result, whether it's searched on desktop or mobile device, you're good to go.

However, if you just concentrate on the good work and especially focusing on positive users' experience, search engines will dance to your tune sooner or later.

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