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Productivity has been one of the concepts thrown around most often in society in the past few years. Businesses are so focused on increasing productivity that the concept has even bled out into the public, with society at large pressuring us to be productive even in our weekends. Bowing down to peer pressure, I’ve also made an effort to try and be more productive on weekends, with me designating this small coffee shop near where I live as my office away from office, partly because a cup of coffee there is considerably cheaper than booking a desk in one of the numerous coworking spaces littered around my place.

As I was focusing on this pursuit of productivity, I’ve also noticed how different it feels when I’m trying to look up something for research purposes when I’m on my laptop compared to when I’m on my phone. Now that I’m regularly spending at least three hours each day commuting on public transport, I spend quite a bit of time looking up for things on my phone and I start noticing the little details on how a mobile search is difference from desktop search, something that businesses and SEO services must understand as desktop and mobile searches are now more equally divided than ever.


The statistics behind these differences

The difference isn’t just in how I perceive things, a study from SEMrush, a software-as-a-service company that specializes in SEO tools and digital marketing, found that the desktop and mobile search results page are quite different from each other based on 50,000 randomly selected keywords. The study found that only 13% of all domains in the study managed to retain their position in the results page. This isn’t exactly new given how we’ve all had this perception all along but it’s still quite nice to see our thoughts being backed up by solid numbers.

When it comes to mobile SEO, it’s not enough to simply apply responsive design to your website and call it a day given the results of the SEMrush study. The shift isn’t drastic; you’re not going to jump from being in the first page of the results page to page one hundred, but for those businesses that went from being in the first page to the second, that’s an extra set of clicks you’re going to have to contend with. In order to avoid being disadvantaged by these differences, it’s a good idea to first figure out why they’re so different.


The difference in screen real estate

The most obvious and basic difference is the amount of available space in desktop and mobile but also in how results are displayed. For example, look up the name of any public figure on Google and you’ll notice how this space difference manifests in the results page. In my case, when I googled Andy Murray’s name on desktop, the right side of the screen is occupied by Murray’s knowledge graph, featuring a short biography of the man, some photos of Murray, his social media profile and related searches. The left side of the screen is the actual search results with a panel showing his most recent tournament results.

In mobile searches, the knowledge graph occupies the top of the page and that to get to the actual results; you’re going to have to scroll further down the page. This difference is simple but it also affects how people conduct their searches in desktop and mobile and this difference in user behavior is one that businesses should keep track of as it directly informs their SEO and content strategies. It’s impossible to determine just how much of this difference is from Google’s side as we have little idea on how they handle their algorithms, which is why I’m going to be focusing on the user side.


The difference in searcher’s intent

This issue ties into the productivity angle I mentioned at the beginning. Because of how much more comfortable desktop search is, I prefer my laptop when I’m doing general, more comprehensive research. When I’m looking something up on my phone, it’s usually because there was some specific information I was looking for. This means that in desktop searches, I could easily click on more than just one results in order to get the full picture while in mobile searches, I’m going to be focusing on efficiency in getting the answer I was looking for.

This is made more complicated by the fact that Google now displays considerably more information than they used to, lessening the chance of you to get any clicks at all as Google could simply pull the information users are looking for and display them directly on the results page. This is a tricky balance to achieve as you don’t want to be focusing on questions with simple answers but you also want to make sure that you have what the users are looking for as clicks are even more precious in mobile searches than in desktop.


The importance of geolocation

Another difference between desktop and mobile searches is that mobile searches can be done almost anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. Technically, an LTE-enabled laptop is capable of the same feat but opening your laptop in the middle of a busy street while every time you’re looking for a place to eat sounds incredibly impractical. In mobile searches, location is even more important and listing your detailed address, which floor you’re in if there are any and how to reach your place is paramount.

For a dining establishment, a coworking space or any other type of business where customers are going to spend a long time inside, it’s also a good idea to include interior shots of your place of business. I once was traveling with a relatively large entourage and was disappointed to find that the place we wanted to eat in was a bit too small for us and this is the kind of problem you can easily avoid by showing the public shots of your place instead of just simply how tasty your food looks like.