What is AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page)

The rise of mobile devices makes surfing the net or browsing web pages easier and faster nowadays. A lot of people use mobile devices to do many different things and most of those are social media, games, other mobile apps, and reading the news. And now Google has a way of presenting websites and they call it AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP is “free-for-all” open-sourced project that is designed to help web publishers create mobile-optimized content that loads instantly in all kinds of devices. Google wants web pages with rich content like videos, animations, and graphics to work alongside smart ads and to load instantaneously as possible. Google also wants the same code to work across platforms and devices so that content can appear in an instant no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device that people are using.

Google's goal with AMP is to deliver the best possible mobile experience to its users and wants to deliver information to the end user as fast as possible. It does not want the user to have to wait to read or see something.

Rudy Galfi is the product manager of the Google AMP project and he said that the median load time for AMP-coded content is 0.7 seconds in comparison with the median load time for non-AMP pages which is 22 seconds, or "the time it takes for you to leave the site and never come back,” - Galfi.

On the late February of 2016, Google officially integrated AMP-powered web pages into its mobile search results. Pages that are AMP-coded would appear in the mobile search results "carousel," and it will feature an AMP icon that looks like a thunderbolt, as well as the acronym "AMP."

 

Figure 1:Webpages that are AMP ready (Credit: Google Blog)

How does Google AMP work?

The open AMP HTML framework can be created in existing web technologies and it also has the ability to let users create web pages on a minimalist theme.

AMP technology is like HTML5, but with a set of specifications (requirements and restrictions). The optimization is powered by JavaScript, and the styling is done in CSS3, and the pages that require caching.

From SearchEngineLand.com:

"[Galfi] explained that Google AMP cache functions in a similar manner as a content delivery network (CDN), that it is free for anyone to use and that it works on 'stale-while-revalidate' model. This model helps make sure the content is always up to date in the cache. The process by which it works is quite simple: When a request is made, the client receives the cached version while the document is requested again from its original server to be updated in the cache." - Search Engine Land

 

From Click Seed:

“AMPs are completely separate from a mobile site, assuming that your site has a desktop version, a mobile version and an AMP version, the desktop version will be the canonical (preferred version), and the mobile and AMP versions will each be annotated separately as alternates. Site publishers can serve their own ads through AMP, although there are restrictions on sizes and placements. Most major publishers serve ads through DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) or OpenX, both of which are compatible with AMP." - Jim Robinson, the founder and CEO of Click Seed

Figure 2: AMP version of Google Search (Credit: Google Blog)

Figure 3: Different AMP versions of popular news websites (Credit: Tech Spot)

Figure 3.5: Google AMP search result illustration (Credit: Google Blog)

 

What types of sites should use AMP? 

AMP is focused on loading pages like news stories (especially food blogs) other types of relevant businesses, such as e-commerce type of websites, for which the AMP results with a carousel style section and other components that are well-suited for the type of niche that the e-commerce site is designed for.

Developing AMP-based product pages creates a great potential in making commercial incentive for websites to adopt the standard.

Developing AMP-based product pages creates a great potential in making commercial incentive for websites to adopt the standard.

AMP is an incredibly essential part of a well-balanced marketing strategy for online publishers today. And it is given that the AMP project’s relationship with SERPs and its Ad impression rates. Google AMP pages that show up in the results page reels more bucks to online-based companies because page loading speed is relative to lose/gain of visitors converting to brand advocates then leading to sales—especially in the mobile ecosystem. The evolutionary change in the search engines from Google algorithm updates to the way people surf the web is something that we can’t possibly ignore. There is a big chance that AMP will be here to stay and people would just have to accept it and adjust. AMP’s influence to mobile users is getting close to inevitable as much as Google has been recommending mobile-responsive websites. 

On a different angle

Eric Enge is the CEO of a digital marketing agency named Stone Temple Consulting. According to him, “Web surfers want rapid search results. And this means that Google wants to provide users with the fastest page load speed is available, because they are really serious in competing in today's world. And if they can offer superior speed for content accessed via search results, they can maintain or win the market share.

"It isn’t impossible that Google wants to keep people sticking to the mobile web because but also, Google has five of the nine most-installed mobile apps in android and the reality is that their market share is far less certain there." - Eric Enge

What does AMP mean for SEO?

AMP is definitely not really a search engine ranking factor and sites that adopt AMP won't get a massive boost in search ranking. All of the other rank signals need to be satisfied as well.

However, "speed matters" in search engine ranking, according to Gingras. "If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes, we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling."

AMP can also indirectly influence where Google places pages in search results, according to Petty. If an AMP gets more clicks and fewer bounces because it's faster to load, Google determines that the page is valuable to users, and it's likely to get higher placement in search results.

"Google is constantly changing up the rules of what performs best in search," says Miné Salkin, digital marketing manager of Absolute Mobile Solutions, a digital marketing agency. "Is your website mobile-friendly and does it pass the speed test? If not, your business might be adversely effected by the search engine page results." 

"With mobile becoming more and more prevalent in just about every aspect of people's lives, and with the majority of people using Google to find just about everything, AMP will be an essential tool now and going forward to ensure good rankings and findability on the web," says Oleg Moskalensky, president of Productive Computer Systems, a company that develops IT solutions for small businesses. Moskalensky says Google will "punish" slow-loading web content in their rankings. "So even if you do everything you can to improve SEO, without AMP, you'd be potentially spinning your wheels." 

And a recent SEO Powersuite survey of 385 SEO professionals found that 50 percent of respondents expect AMP to "significantly affect" their mobile search result rankings.

Is AMP really the future of the mobile web? 

In reality, the future of AMP is still uncertain. AMP technology has a great potential when it comes to mobile search and mobile surfing, but we cannot celebrate just yet until AMP becomes a standard. "Not everything Google pushes for gains traction. Google pushed for adoption of Authorship markup, for example, which required publishers to implement code changes and encourage their writers to set up and connect Google+ accounts. But Authorship markup is now irrelevant and some publishers feel like they were sent on a wild goose chase."  

AMP "may stand a better chance at becoming a widely adopted standard since it's less proprietary than alternatives, like Facebook Instant Articles or Apple News," Robinson says. "As a result, publishers may be more willing to develop AMPs. That combined with the resources Google has put into promoting AMP as a new mobile standard mean it should be given a serious look."

Is Google AMP Really That Much Faster Than Mobile?

Mobile-ready websites are good. Optimized mobile pages are better. But nothing’s faster than an AMP page when it comes to page loading time.  

Ghostery CEO and founder Scott Meyer picked the NY Times website for benchmarking because it loads really fast. But can it get faster?

Here is a visual representation from the Chrome extension, Ghostery.  Ghostery plotted a Desktop, Mobile, and an AMP version of the diagram that shows the different bubbles mapped out in each version of the same article that represent cookies on which companies place on a user's device. Some of the scripts load quickly, while others take much longer. In the end, they all impact speed.

Ghostery gave a score for counting JavaScript tags and here’s what it got:

Desktop = 100+
Mobile = 60
AMP = 21

The results say that AMP loads pages 85% faster than mobile pages. This is because AMP is like a diet version of HTML and JavaScript is almost non-existent.  AMP is also heavily cached, which means that AMP pages get stored in the visitors device so that Google won't have to fetch it from a publisher's site each time a browser request is made.

You can see the difference between the Google AMP and mobile versions below:

Figure 4: Ghostery Desktop Scan (Credit: Ghostery)

Figure 5: Ghostery Mobile Web Scan (Credit: Ghostery)

Figure 6: Ghostery AMP Scan (Credit: Ghostery)

AMP is a response to similar but proprietary platforms like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. The thing why AMP gets the trophy among these platforms is that AMP is open source.

How Will Google AMP Affect Organic Search Results?

Keywords. Domain authority. Page authority. Organic traffic. There are a lot of opinions about what happens to the organic search results now that AMP is in full effect. One fact remains true: AMP is not a ranking factor. In a Google+ Hangout, John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, confirmed this statement.

While I understand that AMP is not a ranking factor (yet!), AMP does affect clicks, impressions, and user experience, which in turn affects SEO. AMP is only seen in the News carousel right now. Google is currently holding the News carousel above-the-fold on mobile, therefore, pushing down organic search results. So, if you’re not on the AMP bandwagon, then you’re most likely going to see a drop in clicks, impressions, and user engagement.

I’ve got more interesting news: Jeff Jarvis explained the carousel won’t always be there. But, with the announcement of Mobilegeddon last year, mobile friendliness is a ranking factor. I saw sites that did not pass the Google Mobile-Friendly Test plummet from top positions to no man’s land. And, with Google hinting at another mobile update in May, I assume AMP will become more important.

On top of creating AMP-optimized content, publishers should focus attention on all other elements above-the-fold:

  1. Headline: Create an actionable, engaging headline by removing the fluff.
  2. Hero image: Design a compelling, original hero image.
  3. First 100 words: The intro copy is the lead engagement to get the reader to click.

How Will Google AMP Affect Paid Search Results?

Google AdWords is already sort of a wonder fix for brands looking to pay their way to the top of the search results. With the removal of the right-hand page ads on Google, I believe we’ll see quality over quantity take place when it comes to the AMP ad placements. Meaning, less paid advertising options and more competition. Brands that pay to play may see improved paid search impressions.

Also, faster-loading mobile pages will result in more pageviews, which will lead users to more ads.

Google has already stated that there will be many options for publishers to choose from in terms of ad formats when publishing on AMP pages. Google vaguely summarized “key principles” with ads on AMP:

  • Faster:  Ads in AMP will be just as fast as AMP itself.
  • ‘Beautiful’: Ads in AMP will be engaging, beautiful, and innovative.
  • Safe:  All ads must use HTTPS.
  • Better together: AMP ads want support from broad market landscapes.

How Will Google AMP Affect Local Search Results?

Local search results have also been affected by the launch of Google AMP.

Figure 7:The AMP sketch from MOZ on whiteboard Friday (Credit: SEO Moz)