How is mobile traffic impacted by the user search query? Is there a way I can find out if my top keywords are mostly desktop or mobile keywords?


Search queries actually matter more and more for mobile, because Google is trying to do a much better job of anticipating and embracing a user’s intent from the query. This means that often, Google is presenting the information a searcher requests directly in the search result above the organic rankings. SEOs are used to this for local-mobile searches, but it is now happening for all kinds of searches, so it can steal traffic that would otherwise go to the site and can skew success metrics.

Google has expanded the types of information that they scrape and pull from a site directly into an answer box, especially in mobile. They have also increased and diversified the number of aggregator-style “Sponsored” results that show up in mobile—especially on Android. The top mobile search result for most flight, hotel, music, and TV show queries are now specially designed, sponsored, aggregated results that push the old organic results below the fold. Whenever you see a little grey ‘i’ in the upper right hand corner of a mobile search result – especially a specially formatted list of results that Google has aggregated for you, that means that Google is probably getting a small portion of any related transaction, even if it is just the website paying for the click. Simple blue-link search results may soon be a thing of the past—especially above the fold.

Even regular, non-aggregator-style PPC results are taking up more room and looking more compelling with click-to-call, star ratings, app icons, links for directions and ad extensions, so these may be more of a threat for SEO moving forward (shown on the right). There is a long list of examples that we shared in the Appendix of Cindy’s SMX Munich deck about the Future of Mobile SEO. With all the scraping, PPC may be the only way to out-rank Google and get above the fold for some queries in the mobile SERP.

If you have not seen Dr. Pete’s presentation from SMX West this year about the Changing of Google SERPS, you really must! It addresses this question in the desktop format, but I think the crux of what he is saying is even truer in mobile. This Dr. Pete quote from a related interview is very telling:

“Google is essentially competing against us with our own information, and I think that’s a turning point in the relationship between Google and webmasters.” -Dr. Pete

In terms of which keywords are more mobile-oriented than desktop-oriented, this can be a difficult question. You can get some basic information from Webmaster Tools by filtering the keyword information to show mobile only queries, and you can do something similar in Google Analytics. Beyond that, there are some more sophisticated solutions, like those from Search Metrics and Brightedge, but those are often out of reach for smaller operations.

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