Mobile seems to have naturally followed desktop as the primary method of searching online. More and more websites are being optimised for mobile use, including the big names such as Google who recently launched a new ad format, and redesigned Google Maps for mobile use.

The rise in mobile use

Google’s new mobile-first design is largely about survival. Although being consistent does help usability and prevent confusion, with Google’s revenue largely depending on advertising, optimising ads for mobile is vital. In 2012, a study from Google showed that many of us use multiple screens across desktop, mobile and tablets when we are using the Internet. However, smartphones came top as the most popular method used throughout the day, and in conjunction with other devices. When you want to quickly look something up, what do you grab? Most likely, your mobile phone. You’re not alone. In fact, 65% of searches were found to begin using mobile phones.

Trends for mobile and why they matter

The global percentage of page views from mobiles has significantly increased within the past year – up to 25% of views compared with 14% the previous year. This means that although desktop page views are not necessarily decreasing, the percentage of total page views is split between the two.

The issue is that searches on mobile can appear very differently to those on desktop due to the smaller screen resolution. Google’s search results for mobiles show considerably fewer adverts, and even fewer initial results displayed on the screen before scrolling down. Answer boxes displayed on mobile take up almost the entire screen above the fold, and if it answers the question of the user, they are less likely to scroll down to look at other results.

Carousels are an interesting feature to compare between mobile and desktop displays. They are a perfect example of a mobile-first design, as they look out of place and require users to scroll horizontally on a desktop. Clearly this feature was designed for the finger-swipe motion used on mobile devices instead of desktop use.

Mobile features

When comparing desktop and mobile, the SERP features present vary. For example, when using the MozCast Feature Graph for 10K searches, ads at the top of the screen were present for 68% of desktop searches but only 58% of mobile searches. Ads at the side of the screen were present in 48.5% of desktop searches but not at all present for mobile searches. Features such as carousels, videos, site links and image results were present in a similar percentage, consistent across both desktop and mobile searches; however the most dramatic difference could be seen for the ads shown at the bottom of the search results, with 37.9% for mobiles and only 7.7% for desktops.

What does it mean for me?

With Google designing a mobile-first SERP, which is flexible and adaptable across all screen sizes and devices, it is clear that the many forms of mobile will become the source of the majority of searches by consumers. The agility of mobile supersedes that of desktop through its ability to be broken into features such as Google Now “cards” and answer boxes.

With a gradual growth in the popularity of using mobile devices to make searches, it is important to see how your URL appears on a SERP, and how it is different across different devices, for example how your website appears in the browser on a mobile. If you optimise your website and URL for mobile use now, you should see the results of this long-term as more and more people choose to search from mobile devices.