Google AMP: What It Means For You

Google AMP


The Accelerated Mobile Pages, or Google AMP, is an open-source project designed to increase the speed at which pages load on mobile devices. Launched in February 2016, studies show websites that implement the AMP technology load anywhere between 15% to 85% faster than the same non-AMP version. Many publishers, including BBC and BuzzFeed are already using it. Though initially aimed only at news stories from online publishers, ecommerce providers like eBay are also using it. If your website can benefit from the AMP carousel style results, it’s worth considering.

How Does It Work?

By stripping down the website’s code to a restricted version of HTML, and disallowing the use of most JavaScript, the file sizes are smaller, which means they load faster. Sounds kind of boring, right? There’s a special AMP JS library that can be used to add rich content to the website, so most people won’t miss much.

But, what really helps speed things up is the fact that Google hosts a cached version these websites on their own servers, so when a user clicks your AMP site from the search engine results page, they’re getting content directly from Google servers.

What It Means for Designers and Developers

AMP means designers and developers need to shift to factor it into their mobile web design. Unless you have a good grasp on coding, it can be difficult to implement. Under the AMP protocol:

  • Only asynchronous scripts are allowed
  • All resources are sized statically
  • Extension mechanisms don’t block rendering
  • All CSS is inline and size-bound
  • All third-party JavaScript is removed from the critical path
  • Resource loading is prioritized
  • Web fonts are optimized
  • Style calculations are minimized
  • Documents are pre-rendered with the preconnect API, only downloading resources above the fold. Resources that may use a lot of CPU power aren’t downloaded.

Designers are advised to design for the user experience first, regardless of whether or not that means it’s harder for the developer to implement. Place priority on anything that improves the user experience, but compromise when necessary. Just because it can be made fast doesn’t mean it will translate to a positive user experience. Focus on your design on the web browsers of today, instead of trying to get ahead and designing for a future, faster, browser.

For designers and developers who want to dig in and get their feet wet, there are plenty of tutorials and templates on the AMP project website. For the do-it-yourself designers, there’s a WordPress plugin that can assist with proper implementation, but it’s worth noting that custom styling, widget, and side bar items won’t carry over, and and everything must be canonicalized correctly to avoid duplicate content issues.

What It Means for Consumers and Publishers

The entire aim of the AMP project is to improve the mobile user experience. Data from Kissmetrics shows 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load within two seconds, and 40% of users will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Mobile users expect a similar experience from a desktop on their smartphones and tablets. If your website’s page response time is delayed by just one second, your conversion rate can decrease by 7%. If you’re an e-commerce site that earns $25,000/day, that translates to a $625,000 annual loss in revenue.

AMP removes the clutter of full-page ads, along with the annoyance of slow loading times and full-page ads. And, because the website files are ultimately smaller, they’ll save you money in data use.

Wait, what? No ads? How is ad revenue based publisher supposed to make it in the days of AMP design? Fortunately for them, there’s an AMP for Ads program that’s designed to allow publishers to create compliant ads for AMP sites, translating to faster ad load time, too. Mobile users often scroll faster than standard web pages can even load the ads, which is a major issue for marketers.

Data from PageFair indicates there are 198 million active ad block users around the world, and it grew by 41% globally between 2014 and 2015. Perhaps what’s even more depressing for marketers is the average click through rate for display ads across all formats and placements is a dismal 0.06%. Adding faster, relevant ads to the AMP experience may help combat the blindness issue for marketers, increasing the potential for ad-based revenue.

Since Google serves a cached version of the site, when a user shares the AMP version, it’s going to point to Google’s version, rather than the live version of the site, which could negatively affect publisher traffic.

But What About Search Engine Optimization?

If you’re worried about AMP and your SEO efforts, Richard Gingras, Google’s senior director of news and products has said, “[sites that adopt AMP won’t] get a massive boost in search ranking. Though because speed matters, he also said, “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.”

Is Google AMP good, or bad? Ultimately, it’s a good thing because user experience is a major part of what drives the online economy. But, it comes with its share of drawbacks for marketers and developers. Load time isn’t a direct ranking factor, and creating an AMP compliant website isn’t just as simple as flipping a switch.

Because the technology is fairly new, and we’ll likely see bugs being ironed out for quite sometime, it’s too soon to say whether or not AMP really is the future of the mobile web. Yes, there is the potential for major implications for the mobile web, but we won’t know for sure until we see how widely adopted it becomes. Not everything Google develops becomes an instant hit, as evidenced by Google+ accounts and the authorship markup. It’s always possible it too, will flop, but only time will tell.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Do you have any stories to tell about your personal experience using Google AMP?  If so, please share ’em in the comments section below.

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