Google’s AMP: A Run Down

With mobile now representing 65% of all digital media time according to ComScore, and with smartphone ownership expected to surpass desktop ownership by early 2017, users are consuming enormous amounts of news on their mobile devices. Despite this adoption, for many exploring the web on a mobile phone can be a slow and difficult experience.

With this pain point in mind, the situation for marketers and development teams is clear: if you are not able to effectively reach your target audience through mobile search, or your site is not geared up to provide a satisfactory mobile experience, you are likely to lose out to competitors who are reaping the advantages of the mobile rise.

To assist businesses, and particularly content marketeers, Facebook, Google and Apple have introduced new content formats in response to the aforementioned shift in user behaviour patterns.

This article will focus on Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), however for readers wanting to find out more about Facebook’s Instant Articles or Apple’s News App, The Verge, Macworld and mporium all provide useful overviews of both projects.

Introducing AMP

Launched in February, accelerated mobile pages is a joint project between Google and Twitter that aims to drastically increase loading speeds on mobile devices, countering both Facebook’s and Apple’s movements in the market.

Google’s AMP project aims to ease user frustrations by making content quicker to find and access within mobile search engine results pages, or SERPs. For any online business or publisher, having the best possible chance of ranking highly in the SERPs is critical; with many aiming to ensure that their site ranks “above the fold”. Being visible without a user having to scroll down the SERPs makes users much more likely to find and visit your website.

Currently, accelerated mobile pages is aimed at news publishers, but it is likely to be adopted for all types of content in the near future.

How Does AMP Work?

In simplistic terms, AMP is a stripped down HTML version of the original web page. AMP is designed to specifically be faster loading, meaning the design can be very basic. For example, there are certain HTML tags that cannot be used, such as forms. Similarly, to utilise AMP, you must use a streamlined version of CSS, and only certain elements of JavaScript components. This essentially means Google can more efficiently cache, preload and prerender AMP content because it’s designed to be static – creating faster loading times and an improved experience for mobile users.

A majority of publishers will publish both regular and AMP pages, something their chosen CMS system should allow. For instance, WordPress has already announced a plugin to enable publishing in the specified AMP format, helping publishers ensure a more suitable mobile site.

Benefits of AMP

The key benefits that the implementation of AMP has to offer include:

An increased visibility for content publishers. AMP pages are served to users at the top of the SERPs, sometimes even above paid ads. AMP is a powerful and free way of improving visibility and therefore website traffic. Faster loading pages for mobile users. Google claims that AMP pages load 15-85% quicker than the standard web page. The option to use regular pages as well as AMP pages. An AMP page is a related version of a regular page, therefore you would imagine this would lead to duplicate content (a big SEO no!). However, Google requires that the website uses the canonical tag when using AMP. That way, Google will automatically detect AMP pages on your site and avoid the potential problem. A simple-to-implement system, with no need for a developer. AMP can be integrated into several CMS. Therefore, utilising AMP can be more cost-effective at creating a faster loading website than hiring a developer to work directly on your site.

Implementation of AMP

Having considered the key benefits of AMP, the next stage is to go about implementing it to your site. As previously mentioned, WordPress currently has a plugin that enables easy AMP implementation for all blog content hosted on the platform.

For content that sits on a static HTML page, some coding is required in order to implement the correct HTML for AMP. These will also be the steps going forward for any other piece of content that falls outside the WordPress CMS. The following steps are required to achieve this:

Design – create your web pages according to the AMP specification Discovery – make your AMP page discoverable Validation – test that your page is written in valid AMP HTML Structured data – mark your content with structured data Status – monitor your AMP report on search console for errors Google provides plenty of guidance here.

Conclusion

Whilst still in early days, there are clear benefits of implementing AMP, especially for publishers using CMS. As it’s relatively simple to implement, and can be added page by page, there is little to no risk in experimenting with AMP before making the decision as to whether to use it site-wide.

Fortunately, AMP includes an AMP-analytics element that allows you to track user interactions on AMP enabled pages. This has built-in support for Google Analytics, which allows you to track and report on the impact AMP has on your website.

After reading the benefits, are you going to test AMP on your website? Or, do you already use AMP and have some knowledge to share? Tweet us @FastWebMedia

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