Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – what you need to know
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP is one of the hot topics SEOs have to face this year. AMP allows faster page load times even in areas with slow internet access. But this comes at a price: Currently, the function set AMP offers is limited and mainly suitable for news-related websites. Nevertheless, to stay competitive website owners should keep track of the development and check if and when they can build an AMP version of their website.
What is AMP
The style elements used by AMP websites should be inline. CSS files must have a maximum size of 50 kb. Width and height of images and other site elements have to be declared in advance in order to render pages faster.
AMP is open source and still in development by a large community. Google is supporting the AMP project and provides the Content Delivery Network to cache static content of the pages.
What are the advantages of AMP
As mentioned above, the primary goal of inventing AMP was to accelerate page load time – especially for mobile pages. The growing amount of mobile users and the still fragmentary coverage of fast internet access in the world are good arguments for implementing AMP.
AMP is suitable for mainly static, information-based websites like blogs or news sites whereas it is much more difficult to build transactional pages or website applications using AMP. This is the reason why currently most of the existing AMP sites are news websites. Examples are Daily News, BBC, Frankfurter Allgemeine, The Guardian and New York Times.
Analytics can be implemented easily into AMP websites. There are standard tags that allow the usage of different analytics providers. If more than one analytics provider is to be used, one doesn’t have to define website events more than once. For simple events, an amp-pixel tag can be used. For more complex events, there is the amp-analytics tag.
Another advantage of AMP sites is the chance to appear in Google’s news carousel. Since a few days Google shows selected websites at this prominent position together with an AMP label – provided you use structured data for articles.
Are there any disadvantages of AMP?
In addition to the limited field of operation (focus on static news-related websites), AMP has some more drawbacks. First of all, there is only limited support for ad networks. Despite the fact that Google meanwhile has integrated more than 20 ad networks that can be used on AMP websites, the rest of online ads are currently excluded.
The reason for this is that ads are one of the main factors that slow down a website. Google demands fast and asynchronous ads, playing together well with the rest of the AMP websites. These requirements aren’t met by all existing ad networks yet. Among the already supported ad networks are AOL, AdSense (Google), DoubleClick (Google), Kargo, Moat, OpenX und OutBrain.
As a third drawback, many see AMP’s dependency on Google as potentially problematic. Although Google emphasizes the open source characteristic and the huge development community that works on AMP, it is totally clear that the project is conducted in the interest of Google, the company who controls the direction in which the project is heading. These critics suspect the end of independent web standards and the rise of company-driven directives in the web.
Does AMP fit to every website?
The adoption of AMP for existing websites is one of the biggest problems AMP has to face currently. Using AMP normally means to have two different versions of a website: the canonical HTML version and the AMP version. Fortunately, there is some support to create AMP pages automatically with some CMS.
If you use a CMS like WordPress, there are extensions for AMP, which seems to be working for most WordPress sites, although you need to ensure you are running the latest version of the plugin. Joomla doesn’t have official AMP support yet, although there is a third party plugin available, but it requires payment if you want more than the bare bones version. Drupal has recently updated their own free module for AMP support.
If you are not a developer and have no professional knowledge of AMP’s characteristics, you are reliant on either waiting for a proper plugin or a professional programmer who does the necessary things for you.
It’s on behalf of Google helping the manufacturers of the biggest Content Management Systems to develop suitable plugins as fast as possible.
In addition to this, also transactional websites like online shops need mid- or long-term AMP support. It remains to be seen if Google will encourage such websites as well.
Do AMP sites rank better?
The usage of AMP itself is no ranking factor – page speed indeed is. Using AMP normally mean faster page load times, so indirectly AMP is a ranking factor. Additionally, AMP only works via HTTPS which also is a ranking factor. The combination of all these technical improvements helps websites to get more appreciation by Google.
When is the best time to start with AMP?
Since AMP launched in February, more and more sites are adding AMP support. While it currently is only displaying in the news carousel on mobile, blog entries can also appear in those carousels, something many site owners are unaware of.
Although AMP is just in the beginning phases of an overall launch and will undergo lots of changes, you need time to experiment and to test. This is especially true for big websites in a competitive environment.
Owners of small or mid-size websites can wait for suitable and properly working extensions for the CMS they use. If using a proprietary system, you should think about changing to WordPress, Joomla. Typo3 or the like. But there is no need to hurry, depending on your industry or market: As long as the share of AMP websites is relatively low you don’t need to fear to be left behind. That said, the adoption is pretty high already, especially in competitive news markets.
What can I do to keep myself updated about AMP?
If you like to get the latest news on AMP, check the AMP project’s website on a regular basis. Additionally, Google News Lab offers hangouts about AMP. People interested in this topic can ask their questions in advance and get a detailed answer in the course of the hangout. More recently, Google added AMP support to their own Webmaster Help Forums, with dedicated AMP support employees responding to questions and issues.
You should also check AMP‘s GitHub page where you can find the latest documentation about the project.
Like mobile-friendliness in the last year, Google is pushing AMP hard. Sooner or later you will have to implement an AMP page to stay competitive. As an alternative, you can look for other ways to make your website faster. One possibility is the deployment of a CDN in order to facilitate the transmission of static website content. This is especially true for news-related websites.
It remains to be seen if Google will extend AMP’s function area to also support transaction-based websites like online shops.
Latest posts by Christian Kunz (see all)
- Time-Critical SEO Project Management – Classic or Agile? - May 4, 2016
- The Effects of Machine Learning on Rankings and SEO - April 19, 2016
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – What You Need to Know - March 31, 2016