Google Takes It Back

About a month ago, Google Analytics notified me that my site would now be indexed “mobile first”. I soon found out that this not good news.

I never did find a clear explanation of what “mobile first” actually means, and in fact it seems Google doesn’t really want you to know. They’ve decided phone browsers are where the advertising revenue is, so they’re now evaluating, indexing and ranking sites based on some black-art formula for “mobile friendliness” .

They want a site to render quickly on mobile devices, and contain -to some degree – the same information that’s on the main site. And they’re probably applying some design guidelines for small screen usability. Beyond that, it’s not really clear what the consequences are for sites that aren’t intended mainly for phones – like mine.

Before I got that notice, I had about 220 pages indexed. I’d been trying to get my photo pages indexed for a long time – as I explained in some blog posts starting here – and I thought I was having some success. But now Google has started clawing it all back.

The day after I got the “mobile first” announcement, my indexed page count started going over a cliff according to Google Search Console. And that’s continued, at a slower rate; I’m down to 100 and it’s still dropping every couple of days.

Obviously I’d like to know why this is happening, so I posted in Google’s “Webmasters Help Community”, a forum dedicated to Search Console. I got some replies, but they all either too vague or too technical. Basically they said “don’t know, but you might consider this…” followed by deep SEO jargon dealing with things that I probably couldn’t do much about with WordPress, even if I understood them.

It’s possible that the picture isn’t all bad. Before this happened, Search Console showed a lot of URLs from my first version of the site (see previous blog posts) that were no longer valid. I expected they’d be weeded out over time but maybe the “mobile first” thing caused that to happen all in a rush. I still have 100 pages, which is about 3 times what I started out with when I redid the site and began this blog. I can see at least some of my blog posts being picked up, and a couple of my photo “gallery” pages. And of course, I still can’t understand a lot of the data Search Console is presenting.

Google isn’t telling me there’s anything wrong with my site, even with respect to mobile. It would be nice if that were the case, and I could do something about it. It’s just looking at my pages, indexing the blog posts, and saying “not interested” to the ones in my photo gallery.

At this point there seems to be nothing more I can do about indexing. I’ve followed the basic guidelines that I know about, like keywords and Alt text, and I’m not in a position to pay an SEO expert to improve things. At the very least, my blog sees traffic and seems to be getting indexed. Maybe this leads somewhere in the long term.

UPDATE: Google has so far spared me from total annihilation. I explain here.

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