Does Your Website Need AMP?

Ryan Huser
Reading time: 6 minutes
29th February 2016

A faster, more responsive mobile web is a future that any user could get on board with. In pursuit of this, Google has co-developed an open source solution entitled AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). There’s no denying AMP is fast – even startlingly so. But is that reason enough to devote valuable dev resources to building an AMP version of your site? Read on to see what the team at Ayima thinks.

What is AMP?

AMP is a project developed by Google in concert with other web giants (including Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest and more) that is centered on a new open framework called “AMP HTML”. Think of AMP HTML as the “web lite”; it was developed using already existing technologies, but gains a boost of speed by trimming out the fat in a few areas.

Most significantly, AMP HTML doesn’t support traditional Javascript, which can slow page load speeds on mobile devices down to a crawl. AMP HTML also incorporates a plethora of other resource saving methods, such as waiting to render images until they’ve reached the user’s view.

However, the most dramatic departure from traditional internet search is how Google serves up AMP content to users: once Google has crawled and cached the AMP version of your site, that content lives on Google’s servers as well as your own. It allows Google to serve the content to users without sending them to your site at all, negating the possiblity of any slow-downs that could occur as a result.

These are the core aspects of what makes the AMP project so unique, but if you’re techincally inclined and want to get your hands dirty with the details of how to build an AMP compliant web page,  we encourage you to check out the AMP Project’s official documentation and GitHub pages for all your AMP development needs.

AMP in the Search Results

AMPScreenCap1

It’s significant to note that upon launch, AMP based pages are only being served on mobile devices within a special portion of the Google News results at the top of the main organic SERPs (search engine result pages). Therefore, only topical queries that trigger news results have a chance of triggering the new AMP results as well. Interestingly, switching over to Google News itself yields no labelled AMP results at this time.

AMP results are currently labelled with the AMP logo next to the post time, as highlighted in the image above. Once you select an AMP result, you’re then taken to Google’s AMP viewer, which renders the content blazingly fast. A swipe to the right within the AMP viewer will quickly take users to the next AMP result on the list, meaning competitor content is only a quick swipe away.

The site providing the current content is listed in the blue navigation bar up above the content, while the URL bar at the very top of the mobile browser reminds users that they’ve never actually left Google.com to view the current article. All links within the article function normally – for example, in the image below: clicking the “BBC News” header will take the user to the BBC website.

AMPViewerScreenCap

It is currently unclear as to whether Google plans on expanding AMP representation in the Google search results, past the current placement in this Google News “Top Stories” section. No statements have been made suggesting this will be the case, but here at Ayima we wouldn’t be surprised to see AMP results eventually make their way into the regular organic mobile search listings, in a similar fashion to how “Mobile-Friendly” listings started to appear in late 2014.

Whether this integration will carry a similar ranking boost, which would give these AMP listings an advantage over standard mobile organic listings, remains to be seen. Google has already stated no such ranking boost currently exists, aside from the (minor) boost that could be accrued naturally from a faster load time.

Advantages of AMP

Interestingly, the strongest advantage of AMP (from an SEO perspective) at this point in time appears to be Google News visibility, not the increased speed as you might expect. Hear us out: the main benefit of having an AMP site right now is placement on the Google News AMP Carousel, something no other type of web page or site can gain access to.

In fact, as most major news sites have launched AMP versions, not having an AMP version of your site available for Google could be crippling if the majority of your traffic comes from Google News. Although there are a few standard Google News listings above the AMP Carousel, the size and prominence of the Carousel are very likely to draw the majority of clicks to the carousel listings versus the traditional News listings.

And of course as advantages go, we’d be remiss not to mention the incredible speed at which AMP articles load. Speed which caught even the most jaded members of our team off guard and left them impressed. A faster loading web page almost always equates to happier users, and few pages load faster than AMP listings.

Disadvantages of AMP 

This is where things start to get a bit murky: Google’s usage of AMP is, at best, content aggregation. At worst, it’s an attempt by Google to keep users from leaving their ecosystem. Though the advantages of the layout are clear, the ramifications of users accessing content without actually visiting your site are not.

For instance, it’s possible that providing content to users without bringing them to your site may result in a drop in conversions and other desired user goals. And if someone wants to link to your news article, a savvy user might attempt to find the actual article on your site (if it even exists), whereas most users will be copying a Google address and linking to that URL instead.

These risks may be mitigated to some degree by emphasizing internal linking within your AMP articles, giving users ample opportunities to visit your site. Still, only time and analytics data will tell the true affect of this novel setup.

Is it Time to Build an AMP Site?

Building an AMP site is not a particularly involved project from a development perspective, but this will vary greatly depending on the type of CMS your site is built on. For example, a free WordPress plugin is available that, depending on the complexity of your WordPress build, can make the adoption of AMP an extremely simple process. Custom CMSs can complicate the issue, but Ayima’s in-house development team estimates that barring extreme outliers, this is no more than a two-week task for most websites, and significantly less for others.

So is it time for you to take the plunge and build an AMP site? That really depends on which of these three camps you fall into:

1) The Majority of your Site Traffic comes from Google News
From a visibility perspective, you likely cannot afford to miss out on the potential traffic that gaining a position on the Google News AMP Carousel could provide. We recommend you pursue the development of an AMP site immediately.

2) A Large Portion of your Site Traffic comes from Mobile Users
Due to the potential of AMP listings appearing in the standard mobile organic results, it would be prudent at this time to consider the future development of an AMP site.

3) All Other Websites
Until Google announces plans to expand usage of AMP results within their mobile search environment, the immediate consideration of AMP development is not warranted.

Written By Ryan Huser
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