Is the AMP Project the future of mobile SEO?

Daniel Board­man, Head of SEO at hop­pa, asks whether the AMP Project is tru­ly the future of mobile SEO?

Daniel Boardman By Daniel Boardman from hoppa. Join the discussion » 0 comments

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.

- The AMP Project

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.

mobile

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”.

roosevelt-quote

What are some of the restric­tions of AMP?

Not all con­tent works with AMP.

  • Can’t use impro­vised or third-par­ty JavaScript, only from a pre­de­ter­mined library.
  • 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.”

- Con­fu­cius

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!

The Decision

The deci­sion now comes down to whether this is right for your site. Can you cope with restric­tions on JavaScript and CSS? Can you find the addi­tion­al devel­op­ment resource to imple­ment a move to AMP? Will the speed ben­e­fits you get make that dif­fer­ence (what if your mobile site is already light­ning fast?)? We feel Google will push this hard­er over the com­ing 18 months and encour­age as many adopters as pos­si­ble. There are already more than 600 mil­lion AMP-enabled, index­able resources out there… will you be adding to it?

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.

Daniel Boardman

Written by Daniel Boardman

Head of SEO, hoppa

Daniel Boardman is Head of SEO at hoppa. With an obsession for Digital Marketing and a particular penchant for Technical SEO, he’s a perfectionist at heart. When he’s not advising how to tear apart and rebuild websites he can be found nerding-out on video games or watching the high-flying footballing prowess of Aldershot FC.

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