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With internet speeds constantly increasing, smartphones becoming the primary way to get online, and people’s attention spans getting shorter than ever, it is absolutely crucial that your website loads quickly. Visitors will not hesitate to click the ‘back’ button and Google has slowly made loading times one of the most important ranking signals it uses. 

At the same time, users have come to expect stylish, high-quality images from any website they visit. They don’t just want to find the best information. They want the best information in the most enjoyable package. 

This creates a catch-22 for website owners. Users want to see a page filled with great images, but they don’t want to wait for it. Unfortunately, these high-quality pictures have the tendency to slow down how quickly websites load. 

Thankfully, there are ways to mediate this by optimizing your images to make loading your web pages as efficient and quick as possible – as Alan Kent, Google Developer Advocate, shares in a recent video:

The video gets pretty in-depth at times and leans into technical details, so we will try to collect the most important tips and info below:

Google’s 6 Tips For Optimizing Online Images

1. Eliminate Image Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Don’t let the jargony name intimidate you. You have no doubt encountered CLS before, and it probably frustrated you.

CLS is where text or images move as each individual component loads. Because of this, you might have text which refuses to stay in place as you try to read it, have new images popping into place where a link was visible seconds before, or potentially open an entirely different page because a link appeared right where you were trying to swipe. 

Though this issue can affect any type of content on a webpage, images are frequently a leading culprit because of the amount of space they fill on a page. 

2. Keep Your Images Only As Large As Needed

It can be tempting to upload images in the largest size possible, to guarantee every little detail will be included without pixelation or artifacting. Some web designers see this as “future-proofing” their site or ensuring the best quality no matter how large an image is shown. 

The problem is that this can be overkill. Even when rendering an image for smaller resolutions, browsers have to download the original image and compress it to render correctly. This slows things down, as larger images take a longer time to be downloaded and rendered in the proper size for the display it is being shown on.

The complication is that displays can range wildly in size and resolution – from tiny smartphones to gigantic monitors. That makes it hard to identify exactly when an image becomes “too large.” 

The easiest way to find this out is by checking out the Opportunities section in the PageSpeed Insights report, under ‘properly sized images’. Here you’ll see which images are larger than they need to be so you can replace them with more properly sized alternatives.

3. Use The Best Image Format

Which file format you choose to save your images in might seem like a minor choice, but it can have major effects on loading speeds. At the same time, choosing the right image format isn’t always as simple as choosing the one which outputs the smallest file.

While formats like JPEG or webP tend to deliver smaller file sizes from the same initial image, they do so by compressing the image. This compression subtly degrades the quality of the image to minimize file size. 

On the other hand, larger file formats like PNG can preserve fine details to maintain the original quality of an image, though this results in larger files. 

In many cases, your visitors may not notice the difference between a PNG or JPEG, making the smaller file the obvious choice. However, more complex images or very large images may look noticeably worse in small formats.

To identify images that may not be in the most efficient format for your site, check out the ‘serve images in next-gen formats’ section of the PageSpeed Insights report.

4. Compress Images Properly

While file formats have a big impact on how large your image files are, most formats allow you to dictate just how much compression occurs. If you’d like, you can prioritize preserving detail while receiving a slightly larger file, or you can prioritize getting the smallest file at the cost of the image quality. 

To figure out what is best for your website, you can explore the ‘encode images efficiently’ section of the PageSpeed Insights report. Here, you’ll find details about images that may benefit from being compressed and how much this might shrink image files. 

5. Cache Images In The Browser

Caching is a process browsers use where they temporarily store images or details from your website to s[eed up the loading process on related pages or if they return to your site. 

If you do this, however, it is important for you to tell the browser how long it should keep these cached images This is done through an HTTP response header containing guidance on how to handle cached files and images. 

If you’re unsure whether you’ve properly configured this header, you can also find details about this in the PageSpeed Insights report, within the ‘serve static assets with an efficient cache policy’ section. 

6. Correctly Sequence Image Downloads

By default, web browsers wait to load details until they are absolutely needed. This is a practice called “lazy loading” that allows browsers to focus on the details you’re most likely to be focused on at the moment. This is not always the best process for loading larger files like images or videos, though. 

To get around this, Google recommends establishing the sequencing order some parts of your site are downloaded and rendered by browsers. 

Specifically, Google recommends using the following sequencing order:

  • “Hero Images” at the top of the page
  • Above the fold images
  • Images just below the fold

After this, Kent says most other images can be lazy-loaded without an issue. 

Again, you’ll be able to find an assessment of how efficiently you are loading images on your website within the PageSpeed Insights report, under ‘defer offscreen images‘. 

For more, be sure to watch the 14-minute long video above or explore more SEO news and tips here.

The way we use keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) has changed quite a bit since the early days of Google. Instead of stuffing pages with obvious keyword spam, SEO success is more about delivering content that is useful and interesting for your ideal customers. One thing that hasn’t changed during all that time, however, is the importance of keyword research.

Keyword research has similarly grown and evolved throughout the years, but attentive brands will know that keyword research has consistently been a huge factor in their online success since the creation of search engines.

What Is Keyword Research?

The idea behind keyword research has always been basically the same. The practice is all about identifying the actual keywords people are using to find your website and websites like yours.

With most modern tools, you can not only identify these keywords, but also assess their overall popularity, how difficult it would be to rank for these terms, and more.

Essentially, by looking at the terms people are already using to find you (and which popular search terms you’re missing out on, you learn what your customers are really looking for to best deliver it.

With this information, you can develop strategies focused on reaching the most effective audiences for your brand.

Keyword research also lets you identify emerging opportunities, set important benchmarks for your SEO efforts, and measure the success of your optimization.

Lastly, keyword research gives you the chance to check your own assumptions using real-world data. Often, brands quickly discover their top keywords are entirely different than assumed.

How To Use Your Keywords

Once you’ve identified the most important keywords for your brand, it’s time to actually start targeting these terms.

In the dark ages of SEO, targeting keywords meant seeing how many times you could fit a word into a piece of text. Whether the rest of the content was relevant, well-written, or just a string of gibberish were secondary concerns, at best.

This meant Google would think the page was full of great information about that topic and place you high in the search results!

Google’s systems have gotten exponentially more complex over the years. These days, the search engine uses machine learning to better understand the content they index and the intent behind search terms. 

Pages can (theoretically) rank well for keywords despite not using them anywhere on their site since Google can understand how the page is relevant to the keyword topic.

Of course, it is better to still strategically place keywords you are targeting on the pages on your site and the content you share. But, the most important thing now is simply delivering the best resources for the keywords you want to rank for. 

While this may seem like it has decreased the importance of keywords, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. These days, this insight helps you spot new shifts in your industry, brainstorm the best content for your potential customers, and set the most relevant goals for your SEO efforts.

Despite Google being very clear about its feelings on paying for SEO links (hint: it is not a fan), I still regularly come across stories of brands spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on links that promise to increase their rankings.

Typically, these individuals have heard success stories from others who had recently bought a ton of SEO backlinks and saw their own site jump to the top of search results. Unfortunately, this is rarely the end of the story. 

Today, I wanted to highlight a more complete example of what happens when you pay for links and why.

The Full Story of Someone Who Spent $5,000 on SEO Links

In this instance, I came across someone who had spent thousands of dollars on links for SEO purposes through Search Engine Journal’s “Ask an SEO” column. In the most recent edition of this weekly article, a person named Marlin lays out their situation.

“I paid over $5,000 for SEO link building.”

From the outset, it is unclear if Marlin knew exactly what they had gotten into. While it is possible they directly purchased links from a website, there is also the potential that Marlin and their company put their trust in a questionable marketing agency that purchased or generated spammy links to “boost” rankings.

This is important because it is very common for online SEO packages to include “link building services” which are actually accomplished through link farms that will inevitably be identified and shut down. This is why it is crucial to know that the people handling your link-building efforts use proven, Google-approved strategies rather than cutting corners.

“At first, traffic was boosted.”

As promised, the initial result of buying links is frequently a quick spike in your search engine rankings. Even better, this payoff seems to come much more quickly than the rankings boosts seen from traditional link-building efforts. In some cases, you might even get a huge boost to your rankings within a week or two of paying for the service!

However, the story isn’t over.

“We then lost our rankings on those keywords and our traffic is gone!”

Despite the initially promising results, this is the inevitable conclusion of every story about paying for links.

In the best-case scenario, Google simply ignores your newly acquired low-quality links – putting you right back where you started. In some cases, depending on how widespread the link scheme appears to be, you can wind up even worse than when you began.

If Google believes you have a persistent habit of trying to manipulate search rankings, your site may receive a penalty that significantly impairs your rankings. In the worst cases, your site can be removed from search results entirely.

Why Paid Links Inevitably Fail

There is a very simple reason this story followed a predictable pattern. Google explicitly forbids any sort of “unnatural links” or link schemes. Additionally, the search engine has invested huge amounts of time and resources to identify these artificial links.

At the same time, Google is locked into a game of whack-a-mole where new link sellers are popping up all the time – which is why their links may help your rankings for a very short time.

In SEO, shortcuts are rarely as great as they appear. If you’re looking for long-term, sustainable success, the only option is to roll up your sleeves and build links the old-fashioned way: by creating great content and building real relationships with other members of your industry.

It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.

If you’re a business owner or operator, you’ve probably been told 100 times by 100 different people that you just HAVE to invest in Search Engine Optimization. Unfortunately, you’ve also likely never really heard why SEO is so important beyond broad mentions of “being found online” or that “everyone uses Google.”

Marketers and salespeople have a bad habit of talking about the power and benefits of optimization without explaining what sets it apart from other types of online marketing, how it impacts your ability to reach new markets, and why many SEO packages don’t cut it. 

So today, I wanted to do just that.

What Is Search Engine Optimization

Before we can talk about what makes SEO special, we have to talk a bit about what it is.

In the simplest terms, search engine optimization is the name for a wide range of strategies and techniques used to increase your visibility on search engines. 

In the past, this could be boiled down to the phrase “making your website the top result on Google searches.” These days, search engines are much more complex and what might be the top result for one user might be completely different for another.

As such, SEO has evolved to focus more on overall visibility across Google’s many systems with the goal of attracting as many potential customers as possible to your site.

How SEO Works

For our purposes today, we aren’t going to go very in-depth discussing the numerous strategies or techniques used in SEO. Otherwise, we’d be here all day.

What matters for this discussion is understanding that these methods affect how Google sees and ranks your site. 

While some strategies are dedicated to helping Google understand the content that is on your site, others are intended to boost the overall value of your site. Combined, these approaches help ensure Google picks your site for relevant searches and gives you the best chance to attract website traffic.

Why SEO Is Essential in 2022

Google Is The Most Visited Site In The World

Marketers always like to say “everyone uses Google” to emphasize the importance of SEO (and they aren’t necessarily wrong), but what does that really mean?

It means that Google is a massive part of daily life for practically everyone around the globe, and can massively influence what information we see, who we do business with, and what products people buy.

To give you an idea of how much influence Google has compared to any other site online, the search engine sees more than 3x the traffic that the second most popular website – YouTube (which is also owned by Google.)

The most popular site in the world NOT owned by Google – Facebook – sees less than a quarter of the traffic seen by Google.com.

No matter how you try to spin it, Google acts as the central hub to the internet for the vast majority of people out there. If you don’t play by their rules, you risk being disconnected from this hub and any potential traffic you might get.

Organic Search is Still The Main Driver of Traffic

When considering where to invest their marketing budget, many businesses find themselves asking the same question: “Why should I spend money on SEO, which is complicated and not guaranteed to pay off, when I could instead run ads that are guaranteed to appear above those search results?”

Organic search results get underestimated because ranking highly is rarely a sure thing – even for the biggest companies. Meanwhile, paid search ads are built around driving results without uncertainty.

Despite this, there is actually a very simple reason you should invest in organic search optimization.

Organic search results drive more than twice the traffic compared to the next leading traffic source. Compared to paid ads, organic search results drive more than 5x the traffic to websites.

At the end of the day, the majority of search results still result in a user clicking an organic link from regular search results. So while it may seem riskier, investing in search engine optimization has the chance for much larger rewards.

Better SEO Means Better User Experience

Every brand wants its website to provide the best user experience possible. A positive user experience increases the likelihood of driving conversions, while negative user experiences can sour people on your company entirely.

So, it should come as good news that the majority of SEO practices are intended to improve user experience in a variety of ways including speeding up your site, making it easier to use, and improving accessibility.

By ensuring you are optimized for search engines, you are also investing in improving your site for the real potential customers who will soon be visiting.

SEO Is a Process That Is Always Changing

Companies looking to save some cash on SEO will have an easy time finding dozens of cheap SEO packages across the web. The problems with the packages are numerous, but the biggest red flag is the assumption that SEO is something you do once.

In reality, SEO is something that needs to be done regularly to have a real impact. 

When left alone, Google assumes websites are becoming outdated or irrelevant. No matter what industry you are in, there are always new products coming out, new information that can benefit your customers, and new ways to improve your site.

Additionally, Google itself is always changing. The company releases new guidelines, algorithm updates, and features for webmasters seemingly every day. Any cheap package deal is unable to take these updates into account and help your company stay ahead of the rapidly changing search results.

SEO Results Amplify With Time

Unlike almost any other form of marketing, search engine optimization is one of the few investments which tends to build on itself for greater and greater results.

As you optimize your website and create quality content to improve your search rankings, you also provide a more robust presence online. Your website becomes an even greater resource to potential customers. You start getting linked to by others in your industry. People start sharing your brand around social media. 

Ads may drive immediate results, but these tend to stabilize with time. Effective search engine optimization, on the other hand, pays increasing dividends the longer you invest in it.


The role search engines play in our lives will only continue to grow as people become more connected and expect information to always be at their fingertips. For all these reasons, it is imperative that companies invest in the best optimization practices possible if they want to continue reaching prospective customers in an increasingly digital world.

Due to the long-term impact of SEO, the best time to start optimizing your website was probably months or years ago. The second best time, however, is now.

Any small-to-medium-sized business owner or operator is all too aware that it often feels like the odds are stacked against them – especially when it comes to competing with larger companies on Google. 

It’s something Google rarely addresses outright, but it seems clear that big companies have several advantages which can make it hard to compete. This is why one person decided to ask Google’s John Mueller about the situation during a recent Office Hours hangout chat with Google Search Advocate.

As Mueller acknowledges, Google is well aware that big brands often receive natural competitive advantages. But, he also had some advice for smaller brands trying to rank against massive brands – big sites face their own unique problems and limitations which can give you a chance to get the upper hand.

John Mueller’s Advice For Small Companies On Google

The original question posed to Mueller included two parts, but it was the second half that the Search Advocate decided to focus on. Specifically, he was asked:

“Do smaller organizations have a chance in competing with larger companies?”

From the outset, he says its a bit of a broader “philosophical” question, but he does his best to show how smaller companies have consistently been able to turn the tables against larger brands. For example, Mueller points to how many larger companies were so invested in using Macromedia Flash, they stuck with it long after it became clear it was not helping their SEO. Meanwhile, smaller sites often knew better and were able to use this against their competition.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed over time is that in the beginning, a lot of large companies were, essentially, incompetent with regards to the web and they made terrible websites.

And their visibility in the search results was really bad.

And it was easy for small websites to get in and kind of like say, well, here’s my small website or my small bookstore, and suddenly your content is visible to a large amount of users.

And you can have that success moment early on.

But over time, as large companies also see the value of search and of the web overall, they’ve grown their websites.

They have really competent teams, they work really hard on making a fantastic web experience.

And that kind of means for smaller companies that it’s a lot harder to gain a foothold there, especially if there is a very competitive existing market out there.

And it’s less about large companies or small companies.

It’s really more about the competitive environment in general.”

While it is true that it can seem very difficult to compete with the seemingly unlimited resources of bigger brands, history has shown time and time again that bigger brands face their own challenges. 

As Mueller concludes:

“As a small company, you should probably focus more on your strengths and the weaknesses of the competitors and try to find an angle where you can shine, where other people don’t have the ability to shine as well.

Which could be specific kinds of content, or specific audiences or anything along those lines.

Kind of like how you would do that with a normal, physical business as well.”

In the end, big brands competing are much like David facing down Goliath; if they know how to use their strengths and talents to their advantage they can overcome seemingly unbeatable challengers.

You can watch Mueller’s answer in the video below, starting around 38:14.

Most people these days understand the general idea of how search engines work. Search engines like Google send out automated bots to scan or “crawl” all the pages on a website, before using their algorithms to sort through which sites are best for specific search queries. 

What few outside Google knew until recently, was that the search engine has begun using two different methods to crawl websites – one which specifically searches out new content and another to review content already within its search index.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller revealed this recently during one of his regular Search Central SEO office-hours chats on January 7th.

During this session, an SEO professional asked Mueller about the behavior he has observed from Googlebot crawling his website. 

Specifically, the user says Googlebot previously crawled his site daily when it was frequently sharing content. Since content publishing has slowed on this site, he has seen that Googlebot has been crawling his website less often.

As it turns out, Mueller says this is quite normal and is the result of how Google approaches crawling web pages.

How Google Crawls New vs. Old Content

While Mueller acknowledges there are several factors that can contribute to how often it crawls different pages on a website – including what type of pages they are, how new they are, and how Google understands your site.

“It’s not so much that we crawl a website, but we crawl individual pages of a website. And when it comes to crawling, we have two types of crawling roughly.

One is a discovery crawl where we try to discover new pages on your website. And the other is a refresh crawl where we update existing pages that we know about.”

These different types of crawling target different types of pages, so it is reasonable that they also occur more or less frequently depending on the type of content.

“So for the most part, for example, we would refresh crawl the homepage, I don’t know, once a day, or every couple of hours, or something like that.

And if we find new links on their home page then we’ll go off and crawl those with the discovery crawl as well. And because of that you will always see a mix of discover and refresh happening with regard to crawling. And you’ll see some baseline of crawling happening every day.

But if we recognize that individual pages change very rarely, then we realize we don’t have to crawl them all the time.”

The takeaway here is that Google adapts to your site according to your own publishing habits. Which type of crawling it is using or how frequently it is happening are not inherently good or bad indicators of your website’s health, and your focus should be (as always) on providing the smoothest online sales experience for your customers. 

Nonetheless, it is interesting to know that Google has made this adjustment to how it crawls content across the web and to speculate about how this might affect its ranking process.

To hear Mueller’s full response (including more details about why Google crawls some sites more often than others), check out the video below:

Google has confirmed that it is sometimes replacing page titles in search results with other copy it finds more relevant. As public liaison for Google Search, Danny Sullivan, explains:

“Last week, we introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages. Before this, titles might change based on the query issued. This generally will no longer happen with our new system. This is because we think our new system is producing titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.”

In plain English, this means that Google is rewriting the title tags accompanying web pages in some search results – often replacing it with other text from your page. This is not the first time Google has made adjustments to title tags being shown in search results, but it is definitely the most extensive rewriting the search engine has done. 

According to Sullivan, the goal of this is to highlight the most relevant content for users and focus on content that users can “visually see”: 

“Also, while we’ve gone beyond HTML text to create titles for over a decade, our new system is making even more use of such text. In particular, we are making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page. We consider the main visual title or headline shown on a page, content that site owners often place within <H1> tags, within other header tags, or which is made large and prominent through the use of style treatments.”

Does This Mean HTML Title Tags Don’t Matter?

If Google is going to just replace the tags put on pages, why should we even bother? The answer is for a few reasons. 

Firstly, the title tags will still provide their traditional SEO value by helping the search engine understand your page.

Secondly, Google is not rewriting the majority of search results titles. According to Sullivan, Google will show the original HTML title tags in more than 80% of cases. The system will only revise title tags if it believes the current tags are either too long, stuffed with irrelevant keywords, or a generic boilerplate.

“In some cases, we may add site names where that is seen as helpful. In other instances, when encountering an extremely long title, we might select the most relevant portion rather than starting at the beginning and truncating more useful parts.”

What This Means For You

Since there is no way of opting out of this system, there is nothing for brands to change moving forward. 

The biggest changes from this will instead be in reporting, where some pages may see increased or decreased click-through rates due to changed titles in search results. 

For more, read the full statement from Google and Danny Sullivan here.

Google is rolling out a new addition to its “About this result” feature in search results which will explain why the search engine chose a specific result to rank.

The new section, called “Your search & this result” explains the specific factors which made Google believe a specific page may have what you’re looking for.

This can include a number of SEO factors, ranging from the keywords which matched with the page (including related but not directly matching terms), backlink details, related images, location-based information, and more. 

How Businesses Can Use This Information

For users, this feature can help understand why they are seeing specific search results and even provide tips for refining their search for better results. 

The unspoken utility of this tool for businesses is glaringly obvious, however. 

This feature essentially provides an SEO report card, showing exactly where you are doing well on ranking for important keywords. By noting what is not included, you can also get an idea of what areas could be improved to help you rank better in the future.

Taking this even further, you could explore the details for other pages ranking for your primary keywords, helping you better strategize to overtake your competition.

What It Looks Like

Below, you can see a screenshot of what the feature looks like in action:

The information box provides a quick bullet point list of several factors which caused the search engine to return the specific result.
While Google only detailed a few of the possible details the box may include, users around the web have reported seeing information about all of these factors included:

  • Included search terms: Google can show which exact search terms were matched with the content or HTML on the related page. This includes content that is not typically visible to users, such as the title tag or meta data.
  • Related search terms: Along with the keywords which were directly matched with the related page, Google can also show “related” terms. For example, Google knew to include results related to the Covid vaccine based on the keyword “shot”.
  • Other websites link to this page: The search engine may choose to highlight a page which might otherwise appear unrelated because several pages using the specific keyword linked to this specific page.
  • Related images: If the images are properly optimized, Google may be able to identify when images on a page are related to your search.
  • This result is [Language]: Obviously, users who don’t speak or read your language are unlikely to have much use for your website or content. This essentially notes that the page is in the same language you use across the rest of Google.
  • This result is relevant for searches ih [Region]: Lastly, the search engine may note if locality helped influence its search result based on other contextual details. For example, it understood that the user in Vermont, was likely looking for nearby results when searching “get the shot”.

The expanded “About this result” section is rolling out to English-language U.S. users already and is expected to be widely available across the country within a week. From there, Google says it will work to bring the feature to more countries and languages soon.

One of the most frustrating aspects of search engine optimization is the time it takes to see results. In some cases, you can see changes start to hit Google’s search engines in just a few hours. In others, you can spend weeks waiting for new content to be indexed with no indication when Google will get around to your pages.

In a recent AskGooglebot session, Google’s John Mueller said this huge variation in the time it takes for pages to be indexed is to be expected for a number of reasons. However, he also provides some tips for speeding up the process so you can start seeing the fruits of your labor as soon as possible.

Why Indexing Can Take So Long

In most cases, Mueller says sites that produce consistently high quality content should expect to see their new pages get indexed within a few hours to a week. In some situations, though, even high quality pages can take longer to be indexed due to a variety of factors.

Technical issues can pop up which can delay Google’s ability to spot your new pages or prevent indexing entirely. Additionally, there is always the chance that Google’s systems are just tied up elsewhere and need time to get to your new content.

Why Google May Not Index Your Page

It is important to note that Google does not index everything. In fact, there are plenty of reasons the search engine might not index your new content.

For starters, you can just tell Google not to index a page or your entire site. It might be that you want to prioritize another version of your site or that your site isn’t ready yet. 

The search engine also excludes content that doesn’t bring sufficient value. This includes duplicate content, malicious or spammy pages, and websites which mirror other existing sites.

How To Speed Up Indexing

Thankfully, Mueller says there are ways to help speed up indexing your content.

  • Prevent server overloading by ensuring your server can handle the traffic coming to it. This ensures Google can get to your site in a timely manner. 
  • Use prominent internal links to help Google’s systems navigate your site and understand what pages are most important.
  • Avoid unnecessary URLs to keep your site well organized and easy for Google to spot new content.
  • Google prioritizes sites which put out consistently quality content and provide high value for users. The more important Google thinks your site is for people online, the more high priority your new pages will be for indexing and ranking.

For more about how Google indexes web pages and how to speed up the process, check out the full AskGooglebot video below:

We all know that the search results you get on mobile and the ones you get on desktop devices can be very different – even for the same query, made at the same time, in the same place, logged into the same Google account. 

Have you ever found yourself asking exactly why this happens?

One site owner did and recently got the chance to ask one of Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller.

In the recent SEO Office Hours Session, Mueller explained that a wide range of factors decide what search results get returned for a search query – including what device you are using and why this happens.

Why Are Mobile Search Rankings Different From Desktop?

The question asked to Mueller specifically wanted to clarify why there is still a disparity between mobile and desktop search results after the launch of mobile-first indexing for all sites. Here’s what was asked:

“How are desktop and mobile ranking different when we’ve already switched to mobile-first indexing.”

Indexing and Ranking Are Different

In response to the question, Mueller first tried to clarify that indexing and rankings are not exactly the same thing. Instead, they are more like two parts of a larger system. 

“So, mobile-first indexing is specifically about that technical aspect of indexing the content. And we use a mobile Googlebot to index the content. But once the content is indexed, the ranking side is still (kind of) completely separate.”

Although the mobile-first index was a significant shift in how Google brought sites into their search engine and understood them, it actually had little direct effect on most search results. 

Mobile Users and Desktop Users Have Different Needs

Beyond the explanation about indexing vs. ranking, John Mueller also said that Google returns unique rankings for mobile and desktop search results because they reflect potentially different needs in-the-moment. 

“It’s normal that desktop and mobile rankings are different. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like speed. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like mobile-friendliness.

“Sometimes that’s also with regards to the different elements that are shown in the search results page.

“For example, if you’re searching on your phone then maybe you want more local information because you’re on the go. Whereas if you’re searching on a desktop maybe you want more images or more videos shown in the search results. So we tend to show …a different mix of different search results types.

“And because of that it can happen that the ranking or the visibility of individual pages differs between mobile and desktop. And that’s essentially normal. That’s a part of how we do ranking.

“It’s not something where I would say it would be tied to the technical aspect of indexing the content.”

With this in mind, there’s little need to be concerned if you aren’t showing up in the same spot for the same exact searches on different devices.

Instead, watch for big shifts in what devices people are using to access your page. If your users are overwhelmingly using phones, assess how your site can better serve the needs of desktop users. Likewise, a majority of traffic coming from desktop devices may indicate you need to assess your site’s speed and mobile friendliness.

If you want to hear Mueller’s full explanation and even more discussion about search engine optimization, check out the SEO Office Hours video below: