Google Search Results Change Based On Device

Jan 24, 2012 • 8:39 am | comments (7) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

This likely comes as no surprise to anyone, but when you search on your desktop vs smart phone vs feature phone, Google will give you different results. For the most part, I think the desktop results are very similar to the smart phone results - depending on the nature of the query. But feature phone results can differ greatly.

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A WebmasterWorld thread says not only do the results differ but the number of the results displayed differ also.

It is known that Google has a different index of sites for feature phones but it is my understanding that the same index is used for smart phones and desktop users. The search results may change based off of Google determining intent of the smart phone user differently than a desktop user - which makes sense, but the index I believe is the same.

So why would the number of results be so drastically different between desktop and smart phone search? My tests didn't show a huge difference in the number of returned results between the two. So maybe it is a test or maybe it is a bug? I am not sure - but we do know Google added a new mobile bot for smart phones, so maybe Google is building a special smart phone index?

I did run one additional test, a search for umbrellas:

Web Desktop Results Smart Phone Results
Only one slight difference in the results and who knows if that difference will go away in an hour from now.

Bryson Meunier posted a nice report on Influence of Mobile Sites on Google Smartphone Search Ranking. Worth a read.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Rob Abdul

01/24/2012 03:22 pm

I have a theory:Perhaps via Google Analytics, Google is able to examine Smartphone user behaviours on websites.  Sites that are mobile compliant or are easily navigated on a Smartphone appear high in SERPS when Google detects a Smartphone performing a Google search.

Slash Pd

01/24/2012 04:36 pm

Barry, the Results are  1+  (one off) syndrome.. ..take a look ther Smart Phase results always give you the Previous Desktop page. seems its a bug, rather then google trying to build a smart phone index !! /pd


01/24/2012 05:10 pm

That theory could be true but using data from Google toolbar instead of analytics. As far as I know, Google don't use private Analytics data for rankings.

Rob Abdul

01/25/2012 03:25 pm

Perhaps, but you can share your Google Analytics data with Google. It does not take a leap of imagination the data mining that can be done with data.


01/26/2012 12:14 pm

You mean, if you share, you get better rankings?? I don't think so..

Rob Abdul

01/26/2012 12:31 pm

No that is not what I'm saying. I'm hypothesizing that data shared from analytics accounts give Google the data to examine smartpone usage.  By sharing your analytics your site(s) are not given special treatment whatsoever. I hope that has made my point clear. :)

Cesar Bielich

02/28/2012 12:09 am

I am too wondering about this, I have a site that is ranking on desktop in 4th place with a keyword that gets 1,000,000 [Exact] Closly related keyword and on my iphone I am on the second page. Dont get it ;(

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