With 600 million AMP-enabled resources now indexed, the consensus is out on Accelerated Mobile Pages. Most will agree that AMPs are now a vital part of mobile SEO. There are, however, still some remaining questions. Daniel Boardman, Head of SEO at hoppa, writes…
What is AMP?
So first things first, for those who haven’t yet heard of the AMP Project, here’s what we’re looking at:
For many, reading on the mobile web is a slow, clunky and frustrating experience — but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.
In simpler terms still:
AMP stands for ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ and has been a growing buzzword since the project’s inclusion in mobile SERPs back in February of this year. AMP was developed as a way of serving static pages’ content in a quick, stripped-down, heavily cached way for mobile devices. This puts speed above all else and works towards providing a good user experience, something we all know Google has as core aim, in fact, it’s the first point in its company philosophy…
1. “Focus on the user and all else will follow”
(From Google’s “Ten things we know to be true”.)
So far, this technology has been widely adopted. Publishers such as the Daily Mail, The Independent, The FT, ABC News, CNN and Thrillist amongst many others are predominantly the kinds of sites who have taken advantage of this. These sites all work to serve static content to their users quickly, and so is perfectly suited to the technology available.
What we have seen in recent months is some e‑commerce sites start to take advantage. The most notable of which was eBay, who launched with their AMPs as recently as July and transferred over 8 million pages of content to AMP.
Is this a sign of things to come? Yes, probably. Most expect Google to continue to support the project and enable more functionality inside of AMP to allow more sites to make the transition — after all with over 5,000 developers working on the Github repository of Google’s AMPs – it’s gotten a few people excited. At this stage, you may be interested in learning the pitfalls of the tech and what’s stopping everyone jumping over today?
The restrictions of AMP
As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “with great victory, comes great sacrifice”.
What are some of the restrictions of AMP?
Not all content works with AMP.
- Custom styling doesn’t carry across.
- No external CSS, must be inline and less than 50kb.
- Images must state their size.
- Will require some additional developer resource.
- Potential duplication if canonicalization is implemented incorrectly.
So there’s a bit to consider. But if you did want to explore the ins and outs of the implementation process, head over to the AMP Project itself for tech-info and tutorials on how to get started.
The bitterness of experience
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
We know that if Google wants something to become the ‘norm’ that it slowly ramps up the positive ranking signals associated with that feature (or at least promises it will be rewarded in some way). Just as it promised back in 2014 that the implementation of https:// would put site owners in good stead.
It’s a fair assumption that Google may do the same here, for years it’s valued good UX and rewarded speedy sites, so there’s nothing, in particular, to make us think otherwise. Google’s Gary Illyes has somewhat cryptically mentioned the potential for this: “Currently, AMP is not a mobile ranking factor. However, it could be in the future”.
The situation is now looking pretty strong – a quicker site should equal better usability, improved conversion rates, and more sales. In addition, the positive effect on impressions, clicks and UX are definitely not something to be ignored. Pair that up with the dangling cherry of potentially improved visibility and increased traffic later down the road and those ‘cons’ up there are starting to look a lot more worth it. Although not currently a ranking factor, Google hosts relevant AMPs in a carousel at the top of mobile SERPs, so it’s as good as. In addition to that, back in August, Google announced the AMP expansion into the rest of mobile SERPs so there’s no sign of stopping the AMP hype-train in the short-term!
That doesn’t mean this is the correct course of action for your site.
Anyone who’s been around for a couple of years will remember the likes of the Google Authorship markup and the AJAX crawling scheme, both of which aren’t supported in the ways they once were, whether dropped or superseded for various reasons, but it’s pertinent to remember that Google can, and does, change direction quickly – so exercise caution.
What do you think? Will AMP be the new face of mobile going forward – or will we see it depreciate with advancements in other code and browser technologies?
Either way – if AMPs can be implemented on your site with minimal resource and cost, then it may be a quick win that will deliver enough of a short term return to make it worthwhile, whilst being in the best possible situation for future developments.
So is it the future of mobile SEO? Yes, for now at least.