By Jason Case, for Edwardsturm.com.
We carry our mobile devices with us everywhere—restaurants, the beach, even the bathroom. They serve a very necessary part in our lives and we’re able to do amazing things due to the gifts that they bring. However, they’re not perfect. One of the problems with mobile devices is that when interacting with web-based content on a tablet or phone, users are presented with pages that load slowly and behave erratically. While responsive websites have cut down on this problem, they still often contain advertisements and tracking software that cause mobile devices—which only have a limited amount of bandwidth and small CPUs—to act erratically and have trouble loading.
What Is AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)?
Internet giant Google has come up with their solution to the problem: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Announced in October 2015 and now live, AMP documents are designed specifically to work well across mobile devices.
Webpages created in Accelerated Mobile Pages load in a specific order—content, photos and/or videos, ads and miscellaneous data intensive features last. To put it another way, AMP is a “thinner” version of HTML that loads quickly and is cached via the cloud, meaning Google won’t have to retrieve the data from a site every time a request is sent. It’s designed for reading content, rather than for anything interacting with it.
How Does AMP Affect Marketing?
With mobile ad blocking on the rise due to bad experiences linked to malware, low-quality adverts, and slow-loading pages, Google has made it clear that AMP is their way of discouraging ad formats that slow down page load time. But even in their simplified format, AMP pages will still be able to include advertisements, pay wall support and analytics.
Since it is open-source, AMP can be used by publishers to adapt elements they want or need for their AMP pages. This will most likely cause AMP specification to organically grow and evolve as needs change and new applications become available, just like HTML.
While Google will let marketers and publishers have control over several aspects of advertising in AMP, there are still several rules that Google requires marketers to follow. Google sets out four key principles that guide its approach to advertising on AMP: it should be fast, pleasingly designed, secure (HTTPS use is mandatory), and involve industry cooperation. Ads are forbidden to obscure text in an AMP page—good bye pop-ups!—and instead of several combined trackers that drag out page loading time, Google states that AMP pages will have just one piece of code that will then share data across various analytic platforms.
SEO and Accelerated Mobile Pages
As of this writing, the AMP module appears at the top of Google search engine results. This means that marketers who don’t use AMP will most likely experience a decrease in their mobile organic clicks and impressions. It’s also a given that Google will use AMP click behavior to determine relative content and adjust their algorithm accordingly. Those that opt into AMP will most likely see an increase, at least for short tail terms.
AMP Benefits User Experience
According to comScore, Americans spend 60 percent of their time using a combination of smartphones and tablets, surpassing desktop usage. Smartphone usage has increased by 394% from 2010 to 2014.
Once consumers experience the speed of AMP formats, they will soon expect all their online mobile experiences to match it. Failing to keep up will result in losing customers, as attention spans shrink and impatience grows. Making pages load faster is more likely to result in people having a positive experience with your brand or service, which can result in more loyal customers and higher click-through rates.
AMP Could Increase Your Bottom Line
AMP Emphasizes Content
Fresh content is important. There really is no such thing as only building a website and getting a few social media accounts. No matter how small, every business needs to set aside a budget for continued and ongoing web development. Whether they decide to use AMP or not, companies should concentrate on constantly fine-tuning their website performance and producing informative content on a regular basis.
How to Implement AMP
- Audit your site. Figure out which current elements are and aren’t supported by AMP.
- Take a look at your budget. How much do you rely on advertising for your revenue? Are AMP’s rules too restrictive for the type of ads you produce? Is there an alternative way to improve loading speed or user experience without using AMP? Websites created with WordPress or Joomla have plug-ins available for use.
- Consider your priorities. Is a function not supported by AMP heavily used by your website visitors? Does this function outweigh the mobile experience and speed?
- Test, test, test. Test your website on several different mobile devices. If you implement AMP, keep track of if it affects SEO rankings. If it seems to work, continue to add AMP to your website in stages so you can see what performance gains you get.
The sites that will benefit the most from AMP are sites that produce content. At this point in time, making an entire site into AMP isn’t feasible or desirable for smaller businesses. Instead, transition your client’s (or your own) blog, news, and updates sections into AMP. Think of AMP as yet another way to get mobile readers to your website—which of course, is still optimized for the best user experience possible.
Organizations that have consistently generated quality content for their website will discover that AMP won’t have much of an impact on their production process. Already having quick load times and optimized mobile usability as part of a user experience is recommended whether you decide to implement AMP now or “wait and see.” If you feel that your content can’t survive without all the shiny extras, then it is probably time to rethink your mobile strategy! Even organizations that decide to wait to implement AMP should concentrate on ways to improve mobile performance.
Having been released at the end of February 2016, AMP is barely learning to crawl, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If people have a great user experience on your site they will reward you with more business and exposure. Outpacing your competitors is one sure way to stay ahead. Google is the most popular search engine in the world, so it’s important for marketers to get acquainted with AMP before it toddles off ahead of them.
Check out the official Accelerated Mobile Pages website for more, or let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!