Smartphones are now quickly becoming the primary means of browsing the internet for many people. They’re convenient and they’re portable so it’s no surprise that a lot more people are accessing the internet through their mobile phones on their downtime. However, in an era forgotten (or never experienced, for that matter), mobile browsing was never really good. Back in the days, browsing the internet was primarily done with a PC and secondarily used on feature-phones – and spoiler alert, it wasn’t that good.
While most people would say that it’s unfair to compare today’s mobile browsing with yesteryear’s mobile browsing, I personally think that it’s amazing that we’ve come so far. After a very long time where some people have even forgotten what it was like to browse the internet with a non-smartphone, Google is officially retiring an older version of Googlebot that was specifically engineered to crawl content on feature-phone mobile browsing. Feature-phones are essentially the quintessential Nokia “smart” phones that came out in the latter part of the 2000’s. Like the modern mobile phones, feature-phones need their own markup for content.
Obviously, feature-phones are no longer widely-used as they were before. A lot of modern websites no longer provide content in WML/WAP that are compatible with feature-phones. This has resulted with Google deciding on dropping the feature-phone Googlebot.
Precisely because Google is dropping the feature-phone Googlebot, all of its tools including it’s Search Console Tools have effectively been rendered démodé – or outdated, in easier to understand terms. Obsolete feature-phone Googlebot features include Fetch as well as crawl errors report.
Does this mean that you have to do a revamp of your entire website just to accommodate these changes? Heck no. I bet you’re feeling relieved by that – and you should be. The reason for this is that Google has stated with absolute certainty that webmasters will not be significantly affected by these changes because not a lot of websites even use feature-phone compatible features in the first place.
If you’re one of the gallant few that have continued to make your website feature-phone compatible, fear not. While Google is indeed removing the feature-phone Googlebot as well as all of it’s features, they’re still offering an alternative for webmasters like you. You should definitely use this markup to guide and direct people who still use feature-phones to fully optimized content for their mobile devices.
<link rel="alternate" media="handheld" href="[current page URL]" />
I’m reiterating that none of these changes will directly affect smartphones as well as mobile browsing. None of these changes will affect websites that are not compatible with feature-phone devices. What’s the point of the news then? I like to think of this news as the harbinger of a better future for mobile browsing. What this means is that we are moving towards a time when mobile-first browsing is becoming a reality more and more every day. This is a good thing for SEO and for marketers as a whole so long as you continue to abide by Google’s guidelines.
Don’t get left behind by the times and really start optimizing your website to become something that’s truly mobile-first.
Also it’s a good thing that Google is starting to phase out what we now consider to be obsolete tools or things that are no longer considered to be “best practice”. The thing about feature-phones mobile browsing feature being phased out is that we are finally moving on to the future as we try to leave the vestiges of technology behind. I’m really excited for the future of SEO. Are you? What are you thoughts on this? Do you have fond memories of feature-phone mobile browsing? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.