As internet usage today has become largely mobile, a statistical survey conducted by Hubspot revealed that over 33% of the respondents used their mobile devices as their primary internet browsing device. Likewise, another study revealed that 48% of online searches came from mobile devices.
Aiming to capitalize on this, and partly in response to Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple, Google released the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project to deliver fast, quick-loading content to mobile devices. This open-source initiative was launched in partnership with several publishers and websites including Twitter, Vox, The Washington Post and Buzzfeed.
The Project, which was announced in October 2015, was started with the aim to benefit web publishers create mobile-optimized content that loads instantly – with no interruptions from interstitial or third-party content. In Google’s own words, they wanted “web-pages with rich content like videos, animations and graphics (…) to load instantaneously (…) no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device you’re using.”
How Does AMP Work?
AMP primarily relies on three core components
1. AMP HTML
AMP relies on a specific model of HTML called AMP HTML, a stripped-down form of HTML that is designed to serve up only the most basic elements of web-pages like images and text. This makes pages load over 85% faster than regular web-pages.
2. AMP JS
3. AMP Cache
AMP Cache is a proxy-based content delivery network (CDN) that caches AMP HTML pages delivered from the originating servers, and then serves those pages up for faster page loading and improved page performance.
It is this caching that is central to AMP, in that it ensures that the cached content that is displayed to the user is always up-to-date. This is because the AMP cache server works on a “stale-while-revalidate” model. In this model, when a page-request is made, the client is shown the cached version of the page, while the CDN makes its own request to the original server and updates the cache with the latest version of the page.
So, to sum it all up, AMP prioritizes speed and readability as key aspects of mobile web user experience.
Is There A Difference Between Mobile Responsive and AMP Pages?
Mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive pages use responsive web design (RWD), which crafts pages to provide an optimal web experience across any device they are viewed in: both desktop and mobile. This means that the CSS styles conform to the device they are viewed in, and display values such as width, height and font-color are changed accordingly. This page is the same page – same URL – that is served up from the original server; just with a different layout.
The Google AMP, on the other hand, is served up from the AMP cache server. It has a different URL than the original page.
If you have both mobile-responsive and AMP versions of a page, you can let Google and other search engines know that by inserting the appropriate <rel> tags in the HTML of both pages.
AMP and the SERPs
So, how do AMP pages show up on the Search Results Pages in Google?
Since AMP’s main purpose is readability and speed, news publishing websites were some of the first to benefit from Google’s AMP rollout. By searching for a news related item, AMP pages are generally viewable in the carousel that appears above the regular results. You can easily identify them by the AMP logo – the small gray lightning bolt – next to them.
Up until August 2016, AMPs were available only for articles in the “Top Stories” carousel for news stories, but that month, Google began rolling them out for regular keyword searches as well. Today, web-pages with AMP content can be easily identifiable by the logo next to the meta-descriptions in the SERPs.
Benefits of AMP
Improved User Experience
According to a study done by Kissmetrics, 40% of mobile users tend to drop off or click away if they a page takes more than 3 seconds to load. This can be detrimental for publishers who have to maximize their ability to attract and keep potential users on their site. Furthermore, according to a report from HubSpot, visitors tend to spend an average of 15 seconds on a webpage, before they navigate away without finding what they’re looking for.
AMP-formatted pages take an average of 0.7 seconds to load, while non-formatted pages take an average of 22 seconds.
As noted previously, AMP content tends to stand out in search results. This can help drive more clicks and, in turn, traffic to websites that have AMP-formatted content.
So, How Does AMP Impact Your Inbound SEO?
The primary aim of inbound marketing is to increase your website’s visibility and discoverability by potential customers. Therefore, the higher your ranking, the more likely your customers will find you and trust you. So, let’s see some ways in which optimizing your content with AMP can impact your inbound marketing goals.
- An Edge in the Ranking Game
To begin with, Google has said that implementing AMP in your websites will not give you an additional ranking boost. That is to say, AMP by itself is not a direct search engine ranking signal. However, given that speed and mobile-friendliness are high-quality ranking signals, an AMP-formatted page can give websites an edge when Google determines the rankings for the page.
As Richard Gingras, Senior Director of News and Social Products at Google, explained it: If two websites that scored the same in all characteristics except speed, Google would give emphasis to the one that scored better on speed. If that speed-boost happened to be because of AMP, it doesn’t really make a difference, but you still get the edge for both mobile-friendliness and speed.
- The Open Source Advantage
Since Google’s AMP platform is open-source, it is not limited to Google’s internal team. Marketers and developers from any platform can contribute towards making AMP’s specifications better. This makes AMP more adaptable than its Facebook counterpart, Instant Articles.
- Landing Pages
Google launched AMP Ad Landing Pages (ALP) to help marketers create fast-loading landing pages by pre-loading the URL of the landing page in the ad, and then forcing the landing page to use the AMP HTML protocol.
- AMP Analytics
Google allows you to track your search analytics from AMP pages on your Google Search Console. It allows you to track specific keywords, positioning, clicks and other analytical data for your AMP pages. AMP also supports is also supported by growing range of ads, analytics and content platforms including Google Analytics, Google Adwords, HubSpot and many others.
Downsides of AMP
However, given the stripped-down nature of AMP HTML, there are some downsides to AMP.
- Domain Authority could suffer: Since AMP doesn’t directly link to the original URL, it links to google.com. This could result in the publisher’s original link receiving fewer clicks than its competitors, and in the long run, cause the publisher’s domain authority to drop.
- Design concerns: Since AMP focuses more on speed and readability, the basic design elements of a page are stripped down resulting in a bare-bones design. Now, while this doesn’t impact websites that largely rely on published content, websites whose websites are a part of their brand-identity can suffer.
- Google’s AMP Validation is strict: Google will not accept an AMP page until it’s 100% validated and free of errors; this means companies will need to invest development time to ensure their pages are AMP-compliant.
Google’s AMP can definitely give your website an edge when it comes to ranking for speed and mobile-friendliness. However, as to the question of whether that means you should be converting all your web-pages to AMP-compliant pages? It’s a matter of deciding what matters to you. AMP is just a means of enforcing pagespeed optimizations that can impact your rankings, but you can still achieve those optimizations without AMP, as well: by taking page loads and speed into consideration during the design process.