Is there a smartphone sitting next to you as you read this? Or perhaps you’re reading this on that mobile phone. Chances are good that you are because 70 percent of the world’s population will be using smartphones by 2020. Although we use these devices to visit social media sites, text our friends and keep up with our work emails, many of us also use our smartphones to search the Internet—often with mixed results.
When we’re searching the Internet on mobile devices, we’re usually in a hurry and expect faster load times, but the mobile experience doesn’t always deliver. Websites that load quickly in a desktop environment often take longer to load on a mobile device. And being impatient people, that means we give up before we get to what we want. According to Eric Lindley, AMP Project Manager presenting during a Google video on the AMP project:
- 75 percent of mobile sites take 10 or more seconds to load
- 53 percent of visitors to a mobile site will leave after just 3 seconds
Most mobile sites take at least 10 seconds to load and half of us only wait 3 seconds before backing out? That’s a major problem! But let’s back up a minute: What is the AMP project, you ask? AMP is the solution to this mobile experience problem.
Google AMP Pages, or Accelerated Mobile Pages
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It’s an open source project designed to enable mobile sites to be fast and beautiful, plus monetize well through ads. Targeting publishers, Google announced the project in October 2015 and launched it in February 2016. Then in February 2018, Google announced AMP Stories to give publishers a visually rich format in a mobile environment.
Although people tend to refer to Google AMP pages when talking about AMP, it’s not a Google-only project. It is sponsored by Google, but supported by other major players as well, including Bing, Baidu, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Initially, the AMP project targeted publishers and news sites. Publishers offering news stories make their money from ads. That is how they monetize the content. However, that form of monetization leads to bloat because of the ads which slow down mobile sites and negatively impact the user experience. Accelerated mobile pages were designed to strip down the code to enable faster load times, so searchers wouldn’t give up and click away.
How AMP Works
Google AMP pages are not the first attempt to improve the mobile user experience. With the rise of mobile usage, we’ve seen an increase in interest in mobile-friendly websites, meaning websites done with responsive design – the design that “responds” to the device on which a site is being viewed. Google started rewarding such websites in 2015 with the infamous Mobilegeddon. And since this is the year that Google will introduce its mobile index, we can be sure more and more organizations will be optimizing a mobile version of their website to comply and get the SEO benefits of a mobile-friendly site.
Accelerated mobile pages, however, are something else, even though they also relate to mobile optimization. A website that is mobile friendly is not necessary a website that is compliant with the AMP project. While a mobile-friendly website is one that renders well despite the device, an AMP website loads fast—and stays pretty. The difference is the speed.
In the most basic terms, accelerated mobile pages are like a light version of HTML: The HTML is stripped down to enable the faster load times without giving up on the brand. In fact, the intended speed is so fast, the goal is described as instant loading. The actual stripping down of the HTML to enable this is more complicated than it sounds. We won’t go into the technicalities here, beyond listing how AMP works according to the AMP Project:
- All resources are sized statically
- Extension mechanisms don’t block rendering
- All CSS is inline and size-bound
- Font triggering is efficient
- Style recalculations are minimized
- Only GPU-accelerated animations are run
- Resource loading is prioritized
The AMP Project offers a clever and easy-to-understand video explaining the technology behind how AMP works for those digital marketers who want to know more. For many digital marketers, however, how AMP works matters less than how it affects SEO.
Google AMP Pages and Your SEO
The real benefit to AMP pages is in the improved user experience due to the speed with which a page loads. Publishers—the initial audience for the AMP project—immediately benefitted, but several types of companies have seen increased click-through rates and even revenue after implementing Google AMP pages.
But what about SEO? What if your website is not a new one or an ad-based one? Does the AMP project matter to you if your main concern is SEO? Possibly, for two reasons: the user experience and the search results placement.
AMP mobile pages in and of themselves do not affect your SEO—directly, at least. From the very start, Google has said accelerated mobile pages are not a ranking factor. However, other ranking factors come into play when you improve the user experience. Google does consider how many clicks your site gets in a search result, for example, and using accelerated mobile pages can help you get your site noticed and therefore clicked on, affecting your SEO in a roundabout way.
In addition, AMP mobile pages appear above the organic search results, in what is called the Top Stories carousel, increasing the likelihood of a click. And publishing in AMP plus abiding by AMP rules are required to get placement in that carousel.
Should You Implement AMP Mobile Pages?
It’s not necessary for a digital marketer to know how AMP works, only to understand the benefits of it. And it is necessary to first have a responsive, mobile-friendly website before even considering accelerated mobile pages. But how do you know if AMP is worth the effort before committing to undergoing your own AMP project?
Admittedly, AMP is not for everyone. Publishers still benefit the most from AMP, so it’s probably a must for any online publishing business. Other businesses will need to decide on a case-by-case basis if it’s worth the effort and to take into account the potential SEO boost. If implementing accelerated mobile pages can help a website appear higher in the search results, get more traffic because a site loads fast, and offer an improved user experience, it’s probably worth some serious consideration as part of a 2019 SEO strategy plan.