Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are set to roll out within Google’s mobile search results in February 2016. Here we explain what AMP is, how it will impact Google’s results, and look at what you should be doing in preparation.
What is AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)?
If you’ve ever searched for content and interacted with the results on a mobile device, you’ve probably encountered AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages.
AMP is an open source framework developed by Google in collaboration with Twitter. Accelerated Mobile Pages create better, faster experiences on the mobile web. At its core, the framework allows you to build lightweight experiences for mobile by simplifying the HTML and following streamlined CSS rules.
AMP was originally considered to be developed in response to Facebook’s Instant Articles. However, over the years, it has become a powerful platform for delivering content directly from search results at almost lightening speed. Earlier this year, Google drew a line in the sand with the announcement that it will push for adding AMP technology framework to web standards.
How does AMP work?
Under the hood, AMP framework has 3 main parts.
- AMP HTML: Think of AMP HTML as a leaner version of regular HTML. The AMP framework has strict rules for the HTML tags you can use. To ensure fast page load, certain HTML elements like forms are not allowed on AMP. AMP framework also requires that you use a streamlined version of CSS. View the full list of required HTML tags for AMP framework. None of this should be new if you are used to building web content using modern HTML and CSS.
- AMP CDN : Commonly known as AMP Cache, a critical component of AMP platform is its proxy-based content delivery network (CDN). The CDN fetches AMP content and caches it for fast delivery. By default, the AMP CDN caches all valid AMP content and does not provide an option to opt out. However, you can continue leveraging your own CDN provider on top of AMP cache to customize your content delivery configurations.
So, should I use AMP for my website?
In the few years since AMP was launched, it is generally accepted that media sites do well on AMP. Since the majority of content on media sites is static, these websites have seen significant boosts in organic search traffic. In addition, Google has also made it simple for publishers to make their content stand out with Rich Cards. For eCommerce websites with content that is heavily dynamic and changing based on user selections (think filtering, sorting, adding to cart, and more dynamic user actions), the jury is out on the how much AMP can boost performance on mobile. All SEO and mobile performance enthusiasts seem to agree that a well-implemented AMP website will:
- Significantly increase the volume of organic search traffic.
- Increase engagement and conversions resulting from faster, better mobile experiences.
- Reduce the load on your servers since AMP CDN caches and responds to most search results.
- Provide an opportunity for your content to be featured prominently in AMP carousel on mobile search results.
But what are the drawbacks of AMP?
The most common reason some digital web brands have decided not to implement AMP is the level of effort needed to AMP-ify your web assets. It is undeniable that mobile presents an opportunity, but it also demands a significant and thoughtful approach. To leverage the benefits of an AMP experience, your development team will need to build and maintain separate assets for AMP.
Since AMP caches content without making a request to your servers each time, your analytics and measurement tools cannot rely 100% on server requests. You will need to implement special tracking parameters to accurately capture CTRs and engagement metrics from the AMP version of your website.
To put it simply, AMP is HTML on a diet—which means that you cannot deliver rich user experiences like moving maps, rotating images, and more on AMP. If portions of your website relies heavily of rich UX, you may wish to reconsider building AMP versions of those web sections.
Lastly, AMP experiences are walled and restrictive by design. It’s hard for users to do anything from an AMP experience except go back to Google search results. This creates the risk of losing mobile user engagement, and a potential conversion for your brand.
Can I leverage web-to-app experiences on my AMP websites?
Yes! AMP provides a unique opportunity on mobile for organic traffic to search and discover content on your website. With Branch’s Journeys web-to-app smart banners, you can further the content discovery and bridge mobile web and app by building customized web-to-app experiences. Here are some specific experiences you can build with Branch on your AMP website.
- you can seamlessly route mobile users from AMP content directly into your app without risking the loss of their engagement. An additional benefit is that you will retain full analytics on your users’ behavior without having to incur the cost of retagging your website for AMP.
- To get a full-funnel view of your users’ journeys from search results into app content, you can include Branch links behind Rich Cards. This will help you gain visibility into content that performs well with organic traffic while creating seamless experiences for you users.
AMP vs. Facebook’s Instant Articles
Facebook launched Instant Articles in 2015 to help publishers deliver an incredibly fast and immersive reading experience for people on Facebook. Facebook’s Instant Articles are:
- 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles
- 20% more Instant Articles are read on average
- 70% readers are less likely to abandon an Instant Article
Instant Articles helps publishers create fast and interactive articles on Facebook. They provide you with the following advantages:
- Fast and responsive: Instant Articles load instantly no matter what connection or device the user is on. The Articles are easy to use as they transform for the mobile storytelling experience.
- Interactive and engaging: The immersive experience of the Articles make them more interactive, which is why Instant Articles are shared 30% more often than mobile web articles. The help amplify the reach of your stories in News Feed.
- Easy and flexible monetization: Monetization is an integral part of Instant Articles. To grow your business with the Articles you can extend direct sold ads, and fill available ad inventory with Facebook’s Audience Network, and even create native branded content.
AMP pages and Instant Articles both provide users with a fast loading time, which helps lower page bounce rate and increase engagement. In fact, Facebook’s Instant Articles load even faster than AMP pages:
However, the adoption rate of AMP pages is much higher than Instant Articles and that’s largely because Facebook increasingly prioritizes video over text articles in its News Feed. This has led to several publishers stop using Instant Articles, including New York Times and The Guardian.
According to Parsley, Google has overtaken Facebook as the top source of external traffic for publishers. With Google now accounting for 42% of publishers’ external traffic:
When Facebook launched Instant Articles in surpassed Google as the dominant source of traffic to media and content websites, however, with the launch and success of AMP Google is back in the lead.
The success of the AMP project lies in the fact that it is an open-source initiative, not a business partnership. Instead of keeping users confined to a particular app, like Facebook did with Instant Articles, the AMP project is aimed at changing the way publishers create mobile web pages.