All About AMP: Is It A Requirement For Mobile Sites?

James Devonshire / Content Marketing, mobile Leave a Comment

Mobile landing pages, on average, take 22 seconds to fully load, according to Google. Yet 53% of mobile Internet users will abandon a webpage if it takes more than three seconds to load. Obviously, this signals that there’s a significant problem in the world of mobile Internet browsing.

For eCommerce merchants, this represents an even bigger issue.

Mobile landing pages, on average, take 22 seconds to fully load.Click To Tweet

An infographic by Kissmetrics shows that if an online retailer is making $100,000 per day, a 1-second page delay could potentially cost it $2.5 million in lost sales every year – wow!

In other words, a slow mobile experience doesn’t just frustrate Internet users, it also has the potential to directly impact a company’s bottom line.

To address this, the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project was born.

What Is AMP?

In a nutshell, the Accelerated Mobile Pages project is an open source collaborative effort between Google and Twitter that is designed to take webpages that are already mobile friendly and strip them down even further to improve load times.

Furthermore, AMP seeks to enable pages with rich content, such as video and beautiful graphics, to work intuitively alongside smart ads – a factor that means publishers don’t need to sacrifice their ad revenues.

Finally, AMP allows content to appear in an instant, regardless of what type of mobile device an individual is using, effectively standardizing the mobile experience across the board.

First announced by Google in 2015, the AMP project is testimony to Google’s constant quest to improve the user experience for its customers – the people who use the search giant to find what they want online.

After all, happy Internet users return again and again, and that’s the best way for Google to further cement its position as the number one search engine in the world.

The bottom line is that stripped down pages load faster and display content better, which results in happier mobile users.

You can quickly and easily test how AMP pages look in the SERPs by navigating to g.co/ampdemo on a mobile device and searching for something like “Mars.” The list of AMP results will be displayed in a carousel near the top and can be distinguished by their small lightning strike symbol.

Benefits Of AMP

1. A faster mobile experience

First and foremost, the biggest benefit associated with AMP-enabled webpages is speed. This is such a vital factor given that Google’s own research shows that over half (53%) of mobile users would abandon a web page if it didn’t load within three seconds.

Another study by Tractus found that even a one second delay can increase bounce rate by up to 8.30%.

A 1-second delay in web page load can increase bounce rate by up to 8.30%.Click To Tweet

2. Reduced bounce rate

This potential reduction in bounce rate is important because it’s one of the signals Google pays attention to when ranking a webpage. Moreover, websites with lower bounce rates enjoy longer visits from users, which could lead to a newsletter signup, blog follow or even a direct sale.

3. Organic ranking boost

While Google isn’t using AMP as an independent ranking factor, reduced bounce rates, faster loading times and mobile friendliness are. Therefore, websites that load in lightning time on mobile devices can expect to rank above their sluggish, non-mobile friendly competitors.

A quick search for the term “Philippines typhoon” on a mobile device turns up a myriad of results relating to the recent storm that battered the south of the country. The top result is an AMP listing and there’s even a carousel highlighting the other relevant AMP webpages just below:

4. Increased visibility

AMP results now display in organic search listings, clearly identifiable by their AMP lightning symbol. As mobile users become accustomed to AMP webpages, there’s a good chance they’ll actively look for them when browsing the mobile web. This will inevitably lead to an improved click-through rate and greater visibility for content marketers.

5. Flexible ad support

Unfortunately, ads can be distracting when viewed on a mobile device. They detract from the overall user experience and often slow the page down. With AMP, ads are fast and do not impact the content’s digestibility. Also, AMP supports a raft of different ad platforms and formats, enabling publishers to continue making money and provide a seamless mobile experience.

6. Visitor analytics

The importance of tracking website visitors on mobile devices was obviously a key consideration while AMP was/is being developed. Publishers can choose from two tags which help to automatically track essential visitor data – such as visitor counts, clicks/conversions, new vs. returning visitors, and more.

Issues With AMP Implementation

However, despite the clear range of benefits, AMP isn’t totally plain sailing. There are a number of potential barriers you need to be aware of before rushing to get it implemented.

1. WordPress AMP plugins are not strictly plug ‘n’ play

Unfortunately, AMP is not that easy to install if you use WordPress to power your website. That’s because the relevant plugins aren’t strictly plug ‘n’ play, and often butt heads with other popular plugins such as Yoast SEO. This leaves you with few options. You either resolve the conflicts (by yourself or with the help of a third party) or resort to adding the AMP code manually, which is both tedious and time consuming.

2. AMP and canonical pages must match going forward

From February 1, 2018, Google will require AMP and canonical pages to match. Non-compliant pages will be penalized by not appearing in the Top Stories section or other AMP-specific slots in the SERPs.

Google says this is to prevent publishers from creating AMP teaser pages that require a visitor to click for the “full story,” something it says negatively impacts the user experience.

This means publishers need to be careful and spend extra time ensuring their AMP pages and their canonical pages are identical or have very “close parity.”

3. Reduced analytics

Even though AMP supports Google Analytics, it’s noticeably watered down and requires a new tag to be placed on each page. If you can live without many of the charts and tables you’ve become accustomed to, and have the resources to implement the new analytics tag on every page you want to track, go for it. If you can’t/don’t, you’ll need to decide if AMP really is right for your business and its overall objectives.

4. AMP relies on caching

AMP ultimately relies on caching to achieve its impressive speed gains. When a visitor tries to access one of your AMP webpages, Google serves it up from the cache. Obviously, this isn’t ideal and could result in people seeing old versions of your pages if a problem should occur.

5. Reduced ad revenues

While AMP supports a wide range of ad platforms and formats, it’s still more restrictive than many publishers are used to. For example, popup ads are not allowed on AMP pages and many customized ad formats also won’t work. This will leave many having to rethink their ad strategies before even considering making the switch over.

6. Limited functionality

Despite AMP compatibility improving all the time, webmasters may have to choose between third party software they’ve come to rely on and AMP functionality. While forms are now possible on AMP pages and eCommerce websites can leverage AMP more than ever before, orders and completing purchases still need to be handled by a non-AMP page.

7. Additional costs in terms of resources and time involved

As you can probably now appreciate, converting your site to AMP isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight or be a piece of cake to do. If you don’t have the resources in-house to complete the work, you’re going to need to partner with a reliable third party. This, of course, will incur additional costs.

Should You Convert Your Mobile Site To AMP?

This really depends on how the benefits and issues outlined above stack up for you and your business.

You should already have a mobile-friendly website that has a responsive design. This is an absolute must and will stand your website in a stronger position going forward. But while you’ll benefit from the epic speed gains afforded by AMP, you will lose some of your flexibility.

[Related reading: Why A Mobile-Friendly Website Is A Must For Businesses Today]

Furthermore, with AMP, your website is tied to Google and its caching functionality. Should this malfunction (which is pretty rare, but not impossible), you could be left without a mobile version of your site at all.

It really boils down to what your overall business objectives and online aspirations are. For example, if you’re a business that publishes lots of content and targets mobile users, AMP is a no-brainer.

However, if your website relies on lots of JavaScript functionality (AMP only allows asynchronous JavaScript) and complex forms, you’d be better off investing your time optimizing for mobile and tweaking your responsive design until it’s as perfect as can be.

Additional Resources

If you’re still unsure about any of the above, a great starting point is the AMP Project website. There’s a wealth of information about the initiative, including some insightful videos from the Google team. The case studies section, in particular, outlines how some companies are already using AMP successfully.

Other useful links:

I’m a full-time freelance writer and Managing Editor at Creative Mindscape who is lucky enough to call the tropical paradise that is the Philippines my adopted home. In my spare time, I love to dabble in cryptocurrencies and play with my three young children. One’s a stressful, non-stop rollercoaster ride; the other is cryptocurrencies.

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