A 2020 study by Web Tribunal found that mobile traffic had grown 504 percent in daily media consumption since 2011. As more consumers use their mobile devices to access content, it has become more important to optimize for the mobile experience.
This is true not just for readers, but for SEO as well. Google will detect pages loading slowly or that have high bounce rates, and thus ranks such pages lower in search engine result pages (SERPs).
We all know mobile optimization will be important for content strategy and SEO, and Google AMP is a kind of technology that is designed to help with these issues. Whether Google AMP will be the best tool to do that for a business website will depend on a company’s industry, business size, business model, content strategy, and much more.
What is Google AMP?
Google announced the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) in 2016, which were an open-source, web-based solution designed to revolutionize mobile content consumption. The move was a direct response to Apple’s iOS 9 news aggregation and discovery platform (Apple News) and Facebook’s in-app publishing platform (Instant Articles).
The AMP version of product pages, blog posts, or landing pages are intended to load instantly on mobile. It can also appear differently or in card form in a mobile SERP.
An AMP lightning bolt symbol associated with a result will let users know that a particular page loads faster than other non-AMP pages around it. An early study showed that Google AMP pages loaded four times faster and used eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages, so the idea was to offer an open-source framework that not only made the mobile experience better, but faster.
How Essential is AMP?
Although AMP can help a company’s SEO, it will not be entirely essential for SEO in some cases and benefits will be more applicable to certain businesses than others. Some of the key points that can help a person understand AMP as it relates to their business include:
- AMP has been largely adopted by publishing sites with a high volume of news articles or blog posts. When a majority of website pages are not articles, AMP might not be necessary for the business.
- If a company publishes a high volume of articles but are already using a content delivery network (CDN), the platforms will frequently come with performance optimization features like file caching, image hosting, and lazy loading.
- AMP itself will not be a Google ranking factor. It may help improve aspects of web pages that are factored into Google’s algorithm, but it is not the only way to optimize a website’s experience and performance.
- If a company already has a mobile version of its website or mobile optimization measures in place, AMP might not be necessary and may even complicate performance and reporting.
- While AMP can help SEO, it is not necessarily essential for SEO. Its benefits may be more applicable to some businesses than others.
The bottom line will be that optimizing for page speed and mobile experience remains essential for SEO, and Google AMP is just another way of achieving that.
Benefits of Google AMP
Aside from faster loading speeds and a better experience for consumers, AMP will offer multiple benefits to businesses that have a content and SEO strategy. These include:
Increased website engagement
Lightweight AMP content will mesh well with mobile users that have a less-than-stable internet connection. A decrease in page load time can also improve the user experience in a way that increases the chances of visitors staying on a website longer.
Improved ranking and traffic
Since page load time is a Google ranking factor, AMPs will be prioritized in Google’s search algorithms and can affect rankings. This means that when two websites are very close, the faster one will win out.
Lower bounce rates
With web pages loading faster, visitors will usually stay onsite. A Google study found that 53 percent of website visits are abandoned when a mobile site takes longer than 23 seconds to load.
Publishers who implement AMP may potentially see a twofold increase in time spent on a page. The more time on a website can mean more conversions from content.
Increased ad views
With AMP, HTML can be coded in such a way that it enhances overall usability of banners and images. This will result in an improved ad viewability rate that helps publishers increase opportunities for monetizing content.
Higher click-through rates
Another major benefit of AMP is that it will be showcased in the Top Stories list (or carousel) of the Google mobile SERP, which appears on top of all search results. Readers will be more likely to select AMP pages first, leading to increased click-through rates.
Current AMP statistics
Several popular websites are now using AMP technology, including TikTok, CNN, BBC, WordPress, Wired, the New York Times, Yahoo, Reddit, ESPN, the Washington Post, Independent.co.uk, Pinterest, eBay, and many others. This is not a technology reserved only for big brands, however.
AMP technology is now being used by over 1.5 million websites, according to SimilarTech. Industries using AMP the most include 8.29 percent in arts and entertainment, 4.41 percent in science and education, 4.23 percent in games, and 3.94 percent in computer electronics.
By country, AMP usage is highest in the United States with 164,690 websites, followed by Japan with 43,392 websites, Russia with 24,920 websites, India with 24,394 websites, United Kingdom with 22,909 websites, France with 21,269 websites, Brazil with 19,623 websites, Canada with 18,315 websites, Germany with 17,521 websites, and Italy with 16,148 websites while the rest of the world accounts for 227,388 websites.
Anatomy of a Google AMP page
To better understand how Google AMP gives a company’s SEO and content marketing strategy a boost, it will be best to first understand three core components of an AMP page.
AMP HTML differs from regular HTML (or HTML5) in that it involves mobile-focused properties and custom tags. AMP HTML will guarantee certain baseline performance characteristics that translate to content loading faster on users’ devices.
This will mean faster consumption by a reader and a better overall user experience, which may impact conversion rates and SEO or content marketing metrics such as bounce rate and time on site.
It will also allow for performance enhancement techniques, such as pre-calculating the layout of every page element before resources can be loaded, and disabling slow CSS selectors. All of these can be crucial to a reader’s experience.
An AMP cache will be built to serve only valid pages and let them pre-load safely and efficiently. This means a confirmed page will be guaranteed to work, eliminating dependency on external factors that might slow the page down.
Cutting back on HTML code tag management and loading only page elements that are suitable for mobile users means the AMP version of a page will render more quickly. Will Critchlow’s Whiteboard Friday diagram provides a basic visual for this.
As Critchlow notes, if a person has an AMP version in the source code, they would designate that with a rel AMP HTML link. If a person puts /amp at the end of a news story on The Guardian website they will see the AMP HTML.
Drawbacks and Other Considerations of Google AMP
While AMP might help to improve a company’s ranking and the experience and performance of content to mobile readers, it can have drawbacks and caveats that people should consider when deciding whether to implement AMP for a website. These include:
- Adopting AMP pages will involve sacrificing many UX elements on a webpage. AMP HTML will prioritize efficiency over creativity, so when engaging visuals are a big part of a web experience, this might not be for you.
- AMP pages also only allow one advertisement per page. This means that the framework does not support disruptive ads such as expendables, and direct-sold ads may also be difficult to implement.
- It will cost double the crawl for a single piece of content, part of Google’s thrust to ensure parity. For several publishers, it has been found to drive impressions but not necessarily engagement metrics. This is because the Top Stories carousel that encourages users to read from other sources.
- Google’s AMP viewer also tends to dilute brand identity because a Google domain is shown in the address bar. While there can be a fix to show an actual site on top of the AMP page, it can take up precious space above the fold. You may not achieve the same brand feel with a Google AMP page as opposed to a standard page.
- AMP also only works when users click on the AMP version of a webpage. Even though studies have found that an AMP library may reduce the number of server requests to fetch a document by as much as 77 percent, the AMP version is not always served when it is not implemented correctly.
- Even though AMP has been around for years, it is still relatively early.
Additional details about Google AMP that should be considered when a company is deciding whether to implement it on its website include:
- You must use a streamlined version of CSS.
- AMP sites have to be properly validated if they are to work every time.
- AMP plugin pages do not allow forms.
- Custom fonts must be specially loaded for better experience.
- You must declare image heights and widths.
- You need AMP-approved extensions for video content on pages.
How to Implement AMP to Improve Content and SEO
When a company has a WordPress website, the simplest way to start implementing AMP will be to use the official AMP plugin from WordPress and Google. If a company wants more control over how its AMP pages look or gather analytics more easily, it can try other free plugins such as WeeblrAMP or AMP for WP.
Not all businesses are using WordPress, not to mention that plugins have limitations. Here are the steps a company can take to implement AMP technology into its content marketing strategy without a plugin.
Create an AMP page template
The first step a company will need to take to implement AMP for its blog posts and other high-quality content is to create an AMP page template from scratch. To create an AMP page template, a company will need to start its AMP HTML page with <!doctype html> at the top of your page, and identify the page as AMP content by adding a lightning bolt symbol (?) in the HTML tag like this <html ?>.
These are the tags to include in AMP HTML documents:
<head> and <body> tags
<meta charset=”utf-8”> as the first child of your <head> tag
<link rel=”canonical” href=”$SOME_URL”> inside your <head> tag
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width,minimum-scale=1,initial-scale=1”> inside your <head> tag
AMP boilerplate code in your <head> tag
These tags are those which you can change in the code of the pages themselves:
The content within the body section <body>Hello World!</body>
When you know how to create an AMP page template for a blog, you should also learn about all of the HTML tags you can use for your AMP pages.
AMP HTML tags
Custom style tag
HTML tags you cannot use for AMP pages include:
- <input elements>
Preview and validate an AMP page
To preview an AMP page, a company will need to open its page directly in its web browser from its file system, or use a local web server like Apache 2. To ensure an AMP page is valid, on the other hand, a company only needs to open a page in its web browser, add “#development=1” to the URL, and then open the Chrome DevTools console to check for validation errors.
It is recommended testing one to two types of pages from a website on AMP first. Include pages that rank so you can see if Google is serving the AMP version in mobile search results.
It may take a couple of days for Google to find, check, and index the AMP version of a page. You should also let the rollout run for at least a month to build enough data to ensure that rolling out AMP sitewide is worth it.
Just like anything in digital marketing, a company will need to track the performance of its AMP pages. This is not just to see how it compares with competitors, but also to see if its performance is aligned with its goals.
There are in-house tools to do this, like Google Analytics, or multiple third-party B2B tools. Several analytics vendors also provide built-in features for AMP analytics.
Other important things to note can include using canonical URLs and other kinds of variables to define what should be recorded. This will be critical in identifying traffic fluctuations caused by AMP.
The extraUrlParams attribute in amp-analytics also adds a query string parameter to a canonical URL (such as “type=amp”). It will make it easier to differentiate AMP pages from normal web pages in analytics and enable a company to compare total traffic on pages before and after AMP launch.
Determining Whether AMP is Right for You
AMP can be a great way to speed up web pages and provide better UX in content delivery, particularly for mobile users. When it is deemed the right choice for your business, you want to be sure to take the above considerations into account and to follow the steps for implementation.
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For help implementing AMP, SERP Matrix can handle that as well. We handle all kinds of landing page design and testing.