The Difference Between SERPs

The Difference Between SERPs

Posted July 8, 2019 by Lee

When you are viewing a SERP (or Search Engine Results Page), you will get a list of results which are returned based on what the search engine thinks is most relevant to your search. Simple enough, right? Most companies spend a lot of time trying to rank at the top of SERPs, so that you will see and click on them first.

However, there’s something that most people don’t know about which throws a real spanner in the works. This is the fact that SERPs look different depending on whether you are viewing them on desktop or mobile. And in fact, these changes go way beyond simple aesthetics. Here’s what to expect from SERPs based on your chosen view.

The looks

First off, search results really do look different when viewed on mobile vs on a desktop. They have less space to appear in, meaning that the page title and description can end up looking too lengthy even if they seem reasonable on desktop. You will also see fewer results on the first glance at your screen, and will need to scroll down more in order to see all of the results on the first page.

What this means is that the top three results are much more important for mobile searches than they are on desktop. If you aren’t in those top three, there is a high chance that the visitor will not even see your result, let alone click on it.

The positions

What’s really crazy is that the actual positions of the results change between desktop and mobile as well. This is likely because the search engine is trying to make sure you only find sites that are suitable for viewing on mobile when you search that way.

It almost goes without saying that this makes mobile-friendly responsive design an absolute necessity for any website now. Search engines will much prefer displaying a responsive website than one that doesn’t budge – this is generally already the case, but even more so with mobile searches.

So, how far does the problem extend? Research from teams looking into this issue have found that as many as 70% of domains that are ranked first in desktop results are no longer in that position when you search on mobile. For the top three results, this changes to just over 50%.

If you are on the top three results on desktop, you might be taking it for granted that you are also up there on mobile. However, as these statistics show, there is only a 50% chance that you are right.

When taken overall, only around 13% of pages will display in the same position on mobile as they do on desktop. With such a low percentage, we can probably say that this is basically just coincidence. What we should be doing is considering desktop and mobile SEO (search engine optimisation) as completely different beasts.

The takeaway

So, what can you do about this? One silver lining to look at is the fact that even if your competitors are beating you on desktop, they might not be on mobile – or vice versa. But this probably isn’t very comforting if you are the top on only one of these types of SERPs!

To rank higher on mobile, make sure that your site loads as quickly as possible and include engaging content – not just text, but also media, including videos.


Mobile is quickly replacing desktop as the most popular way of searching the web. With this in mind, you might want to consider focusing your SEO efforts on mobile SERPs from now on!

Categories: SEO