Google’s AMP – What Is It And Is It Worth Implementing?

Mobile internet traffic has grown substantially in the last decade, with around 90% of users accessing the internet through mobile phones. Modern digital marketers know essential it is to have a mobile-friendly website, but today’s web calls for more than just something that works on your smartphone. Today’s mobile internet means streamlining your browsing experience across all your devices.

One of the critical issues the AMP project was developed to address was and is page load speeds. Google is obsessed with page load times and with very good reason. Their money comes from people clicking on paid ads, and if your page takes forever to load, people won’t click the ads. Facebook took a big bite out of Google’s ad revenues, and AMP was the search giant’s response to things like Facebook Instant Articles.

Slow pages frustrate people. Over 40% of online users will click out of your lovely web page if it doesn’t load inside 3 seconds. Web pages that are just a smaller version of a desktop layout also suffer from clutter with the design looking bloated and messy if you overdo it with banners and images, for example.

Google’s answer to this is the AMP Project!

What is AMP, and how does it work?

‘The AMP Project’ (previously known as ‘The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project’) is a website publishing technology, announced by Google in late 2015. AMP helps developers create pages that load almost instantaneously on mobile devices, and as Google puts it, “AMP is a web component framework to easily create user-first websites.”

AMP Timeline

Web pages can become cumbersome due to various reasons such as complex HTML code, for example. AMP uses minimal HTML and eliminates a lot of the Javascript code, which allows it to host content on the Google AMP cache. When users click on your page through a search result, they receive the ‘AMP’ optimized version of your page.

Many mobile users do not even realize that they are on an AMP page – pay attention to the small lightning bolt icon beside a search result next time you’re looking for something through your mobile phone.

When visiting an AMP page, you will notice that the page will be mostly text and images: AMP pages load the content first and disable any background code that may be slowing it down. In addition to this, AMP pages restrict ads and instead focus on the material that readers would be most interested in browsing.

AMP has progressed from the first iteration and now allows the creation of ads, emails, and news stories, in addition to just webpages. It seems Google is targeting anything that involves any user engagement. More engagement = more clicks = more ad revenue and that ad revenue is the core of the Google business model.

Is AMP good for SEO?

Many marketeers question what AMP will do to their SEO. In terms of ranking, AMP pages would seem to be getting higher SERPs. As per Google’s requirements, websites that publish news stories are obligated to use AMP pages; otherwise, those pages will not show up on the Google News Carousel. Due to the horizontal formatting of the carousel, mobile users will find swiping for content much more comfortable.

Google Index – Google AMP

As with anything Google related, you only ever have two choices. Do what Google wants you to do and hope for better rankings or ignore them, with the inevitable hit to your rankings and traffic.

We’ve had various Google updates over the years, and as marketers, we’ve had to deal with our fair share of Pandas and Penguins. The flavor of the month for Google is page load speed. Their ball, their game, and if Google chooses to favor AMP listings on SERPs, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

For websites that produce a lot of content, AMP can offer more engagement since its top benefit is improved load speed of pages, which will likely decrease bounce rates. Furthermore, AMP is supported by Google Analytics so you can track your page’s performance, albeit with some limitations.

At the same time, AMP would not work for a ‘services’ business or an e-commerce website with a more interactive website. Therefore, it may be a good idea to convert sections of your website into AMP – for example, converting just the ‘Blog’ page into AMP would make more sense. AMP focuses on the readability of the content rather than anything else, meaning the reduction or even elimination of a lot of the bottlenecks that throttle page speeds on more complex layouts.

AMP incorporates structured data for any of the Google schema markup types, allowing the search giant to know at an instant what your page is about. For example, a news item, a recipe, or a book review, allowing for more relevant search results to be presented for any given keyword search. That moves your content closer to the number one spot for your keywords and should result in more ad clicks for Google.

Google’s take-over

The AMP project has been a controversial topic in the tech industry from the moment of its inception. Many developers have criticized AMP and suggest that the project is simply Google’s attempt to hijack content from the original creator and amplify the tech giant’s web power. This criticism stems from the fact that AMP pages have a Google domain, so when you use the AMP plugin, your page will become: https://google.com/originalwebsite.com. When a page is shared, the Google URL is displayed.

Inevitably, users will spend more time viewing Google’s ads, instead of those on the original website.

The Good

No doubt about it, AMP improves visitor satisfaction. Pages load faster, which in turn means your traffic will spend more time on your pages and be more inclined to purchase your product or service.

Your rankings in the mobile index will improve. AMP is about speed, and as of the July 2018 update, Google uses page speed as a ranking factor for their mobile search results. As and in of itself, AMP won’t improve your rankings, but the speed factor will.

Informational sites, in particular, that rely on a lot of text, and a few images will see measurable benefits from adopting AMP. That plus the markup means AMP should be adopted on news sites.

Major CMS (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress and Drupal, have a smooth deployment to AMP versions. This integration can be either through the actual coding or for the less technically proficient, though plugins,

The Bad

AMP restricts user interaction. Anything that impacts load speeds will be flagged as a penalty, meaning intricate designs will be a no-no. That will inevitably affect user interaction.

User engagement will probably see a negative impact. Under AMP, the text becomes King, but there’s isn’t that much you can offer by way of interaction with a simple text page.

While Google Analytics will work with AMP, the functionality is limited, and the integration itself isn’t as simple as non-AMP pages. Only one ad tag per page is supported.

Ad placements also become more complicated for webmasters. AMP does come with support for ads, but the process isn’t the friendliest I’ve ever come across.

While AMP is compatible with WordPress, some of the more popular page builders won’t work with AMP sites. While not an issue for webmasters with devs, many solo marketers will struggle.

To AMP or not to AMP?

AMP caching will offer improved speeds, and Google will probably favor AMP sites in their search results, but adoption isn’t necessarily a blanket solution.

If you rely heavily on text, then certainly AMP will be a benefit. If your web pages rely heavily on UX elements, AMP will limit your options.

The rate of adoption is accelerating as more and more SEOs concentrate on mobile content over bigger screen devices. This move to mobile is inevitable, and with it, comes deeper adoption of AMP. You can ignore it, or you can adapt to it, but at some point, you’ll have to accept it.

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