Spotted another difference between smartphone results and desktop results that may account for some of the variance that I reported earlier.
If you have a “pages similar to” feature on the search results page for your brand term in desktop, it shows a five line suggestion at the end that looks like this:
This shows up for navigational searches, which are searches that seem to indicate that a user wants to go to a specific web site. If you’re putting [american airlines] or [match.com] into the Google search box, you are performing a navigational search.
On desktop it’s called out, so that it doesn’t look like the web results, and it’s only given five lines after the full page of web listings. However, on smartphones it appears as part of the web results, and might make it seem as though competitors are not just related, but highly relevant to your brand.
For example, if you scroll all the way down the page for the term [nike] on an iPhone 4, you see 4 listings for some of Nike’s biggest competitors:
If you represent a brand like Nike, I would imagine that it would be bad enough to have that 5 line feature potentially sending brand-loyal traffic to your competitors, but 4 individual listings representing 28% of the page would almost certainly be unacceptable to most brand managers.
The up side is that scrolling is required to even see these listings, and that’s something time-starved mobile users putting in navigational queries are not likely to do. It could also benefit your brand to be on your competitors’ brand results page, as it’s benefitting Adidas, Puma et al here.
This also seems to me more like a bug that will eventually be fixed by Google as they do more user experience testing on mobile search results and redesign the results to be mobile-friendly, as they did with weather-related and snow condition-related queries last week. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to expanding the listings for a smaller screen, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this is a temporary problem for brands.
Nonetheless, brands that want to combat this problem can’t push the listings down, but they can make it less likely that a searcher will scroll down to the competitor listings by providing usable mobile content to reduce bounce rate from the first listing through user agent detection, and by ensuring that your sitelinks and branded content below is relevant to both desktop and mobile users.
It could also help to get an additional listing on the first page by buying a search ad for your brand terms, and there will doubtless be some who think that makes this “bug” suspect; but as usual I’m more interested in driving business value through natural search than tinfoil hats.