Accelerated Mobile Pages: Are AMP Pages Worth It
By: Dileep Thekkethil
August 30, 2022
Table of Contents
If you are experiencing faster web browsing?
AMP might be one of the leading factors that enabled it.
Remember when Google announced in 2015 that its Algorithm is going to penalize sites that are not mobile friendly?
In fact, that was a big statement from the search engine giant because the shift from Desktop search to Mobile search was quite disruptive.
The whole discussion about mobile users overtaking desktop users was ripe during these days. However, the user experience offered on mobile devices was not so great.
Thinking why AMP was brought in?
Because Google’s survival is based on the overall search experience of users.
The experience users get after they click on a search result is as important as the results displayed.
AMP was implemented to bridge this gap, and its core aim was to make the mobile user experience much faster.
While 70% of cellular network connections globally will occur at 3G and faster speeds, 56% of the users abandon a webpage that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
In order to circumvent this problem, an idea to create a platform that excludes features that are not integral to the user interface was promulgated and was named Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
The basic idea behind AMP pages is to provide users all the information required while embracing limitations to the design and retain only the general user-interface requirements vital for the users.
With AMP implemented on your website, Google can load your pages 15%- 85% faster than normal.
— Genie Goals (@GenieGoals) September 13, 2017
After the implementation of AMP, most websites found an increase in rankings. That said, Google has not confirmed AMP as a ranking factor.
But it can indirectly impact the rankings of your website. Especially as Google has confirmed that Core Web Vitals will be part of its ranking signal starting May 2021.
Interestingly, Google has also confirmed that Web Vitals will only impact mobile search results.
Adding to this, Google was happy to announce that most of the AMP-enabled pages are immune to Web Vitals as AMP pages are generally faster, provided there are no heavy-duty external elements.
Google itself has been pushing website owners to adopt AMP in almost the same way they do with Schema.
However, there are many questions asked about AMP and its implications on the website.
What is AMP? What is the History Behind AMP?
In technology, everything happens for a reason, and so is the case with AMP.
The Project AMP was first announced in 2015 by Google in retaliation to Facebook’s initiative to launch Instant Articles.
However, the idea behind both AMP and Instant Answer stems from the basic necessity for speed.
The mobile internet speed has always remained a big hurdle for the users and for these large tech giants as well.
They wanted to find a solution not only to help the users but also to better monetize the revenue from mobile devices.
In addition to this, some countries have very high data tariffs and it tends to make users become data-conscious while browsing.
However, with a lighter-webpage, they don’t have to worry about data usage.
Facebook’s Instant Articles feature became an instant hit after it was released to the news publishers in 2016.
It allowed publishers to display their articles on the Facebook platform with minimum options for customization.
This made the articles load instantly, giving users a more intuitive user experience.
In the earlier stage, the Instant Article feature was only available to a few select publishers such as Woven Digital, BuzzFeed, New York Times, etc.
However, once the test of amp pages concluded, Facebook launched it to the rest of the publishers.
Even though the initial versions of the Instant Article failed to support ads, after the public launch in 2016 May, the publishers were allowed to place native and video ads in the Instant Article.
This was the time when Google decided to pitch its AMP Open Source Project.
Unlike Facebook’s Instant Article, AMP was free to use, modify, and adapt, thus increasing its popularity.
Was AMP an Outright Retaliation of Google Against Facebook’s Instant Answer?
If you try understanding the companies that joined hands with Google for the AMP project, it might seem like a relation to winning more customers.
Soon after the project was announced, LinkedIn and Twitter, two rivals of Facebook, were the first to collaborate with Google.
WordPress, being one of the most widely used CMS platforms by publishers, took the initiative to the next level and launched a plugin to help all the publishers adapt to the new AMP technology without having to spend much time coding.
Once the project was released to the public, which was some time back during the first half of 2016, publishers, users were so excited to see news articles loading in a split second without much ad interference.
AMP in Google News and Top Stories
In the initial days after the launch of AMP, the feature was restricted to search results that appeared on the Top Stories section on mobile devices.
This resulted in Google News approved publishers started using AMP extensively.
After a majority of the Google News publishers made the shift to AMP, in September 2016, Google started showcasing the AMP results outside of the Top Stories as well.
Just a year after, Twitter and LinkedIn users also started getting AMP links in the respective native browsers while accessing through iOS and Android apps, putting it a direct contender against Facebook’s Instant Answer.
Now, if a publisher wants to get featured on the Top Stories section on mobile devices, the AMP version was inevitable.
However, starting in 2021, Google has announced that AMP will not be mandatory for news websites to show up on the top stories, but there is a catch.
Only news publishers who attain the perfect Core Web Vitals score will be eligible for ranking on Top Stories.
This again means Google wants to ensure that the user experience provided by the publishers remain top-notch.
How AMP Works?
To put it simply, AMP is an ultra-light HTML page designed to load faster in web browsers.
What you also must know is that AMP is just an alternative feature. The original version of the page is intact and you’re just asking Google to consider the alternative version to show up on search results.
The light-weight feature of AMP pages is a combination of three major components.
- AMP HTML
- AMP Cache
Even though there are many players outside of Google that use the AMP feature, for example, Bing and Cloudflare, the three fundamental building blocks of AMP remain the same.
What is AMP HTML?
AMP HTML is one of the three factors that make an AMP page.
The AMP HTML is a basic HTML file that comes with a few restrictions to improve the performance and reliability of the page.
If you’re familiar with the HTML tag, it won’t be difficult for you to spot AMP-HTML.
A few HTML tags get an AMP makeover such as the <img> tag in HTML will become <amp-img> tag and same with video tag which will be amp-video.
However, for all the AMP HTML tags to you, it’s a prerequisite to have the AMP Script aka AMP-JS.
What is AMP JS?
This library also manages the loading of the custom tags mentioned above, all to ensure a quick rendering of your page.
What is AMP Cache?
Are you familiar with the concept of CDN?
The AMP cache is a kind of CDN that delivers the valid AMP pages to the browsers.
When Google displays AMP results, the pages are immediately fetched from the AMP Cache stored in the Google server, making the page load lightning fast.
This is possible as all the files, including the text, images, java are loaded from the cache saved in Google server simultaneously.
Should You Use Accelerated Mobile Pages?
The answer to this question greatly depends on the kind of website that you’re managing.
If you’re into a product or service-based business, AMP is not a good option.
Even though you will improve the speed or even traffic for that case, the conversions will be hard to come by.
The reason for this is that your users get a limited version of the webpage that looks nowhere close to the original design of your website.
However, if you’re somebody who maintains a news website or even a blog section within your product or service website, direct your attention to AMP.
AMP is a boon for publishers, and this is one reason why the majority of the reputed publishers have enabled AMP.
What are the Disadvantages of Using Accelerated Mobile Pages?
If you’re thinking of migrating your highly complex website into AMP, the end result may not give you happiness. The simple reason being AMP is not built to manage complexities and everything you see is a trimmed-down version.
Here are some of the disadvantages of AMP
- CSS Restrictions of AMP make the pages look similar to a static page. It also limits the number of styles that can be used on a page to improve the speed and usability of the webpages.
- You have to ensure that the tracking codes are placed in a Google prescribed format. In addition to this, there are reports about inconsistent data for AMP-enabled pages.
- The difference in the live version and AMP version was one of the biggest hurdles faced in the early days of AMP. Even now, the pages don’t update real-time, but Google has provided an option to remove the cache and refresh the content.
How is AMP Delivered Through Google Search?
You already have a website and AMP is just an addition to it.
However, Google rightly picks the AMP version of your website while displaying the mobile search results.
How is that possible? Have you ever given a thought about this?
The process is pretty simple and you don’t need a geek gene to understand this.
When you enable AMP for the blogs, it creates an optimized AMP page, which is a canonicalized version of the original URL.
Here is an example of the same:
Hosted URL: example.com/blog/test/
AMP URL: example.com/blog/test/amp
While the Google crawler indexes the page, it identifies the AMP version from the source code.
The AMP result is displayed in mobile devices, whereas the original version of the URL is shown for desktop users.
If you want to check whether your AMP page is working just try adding /amp in the end of the URL.
If you see a new page with a trimmed-down look, AMP is active on your site.
However, the version that you see is not the same that displays in the SERP because it is hosted in your server.
The one displayed in Google SERP is the cached version of this same page and it loads faster as it’s stored in Google’s cache.
Usually, a cached AMP URL structure looks like this:
Test AMP Pages Frequently
By now, you know that AMP pages have to follow a long list of restrictions and technical guidelines to get indexed and displayed on Google.
However, what if you don’t have the technical knowledge to check the validity of the AMP page? Don’t worry, the all-pervasive Google is here to help you.
Google recently launched a new Search Console tool to test if you have properly set up the AMP page.
How to Place Ads AMP page?
Ads were not part of the initial version of AMP.
However, Google added a custom amp-ad tag, that now enables ads on your AMP page.
By using this tag in the header, you can place Adsense, DoubleClick (DFP), and Custom Ads on any AMP page.
Google AMP currently supports more than 100 ad networks, so placing ads on your AMP page will not be an issue anymore.
Does AMP Affect SEO?
So, let me put it straight, AMP is not a ranking factor!
You may be thinking as to why put in such a herculean effort if it doesn’t help with ranking.
If you’re an SEO, this question may have already set down on your thoughts. But wait!
If yes, AMP must be looked at as a ranking factor.
Google has categorically stated that the websites with bad user experience will fail in SERP rankings.
If this is true, AMP pages take care of this and improve the user experience by delivering light-weight pages.
Once Google senses that there are more people reading your AMP page, it will indirectly help in improving the SERP position due to higher levels of engagement.
If you’re a Google News Approved publisher, AMP must be in your list of top must-have features.
The reason being, after 2017, the Top Stories section on Mobile devices feature 80% AMP pages than responsive ones.
So, if you don’t want to miss out on getting featured in the News Carousel, ensure that AMP is enabled.
Can You Optimize Landing Pages with AMP?
So, AMP makes web pages load faster than usual, so why don’t we use it to create a landing page for your Google Ads? It’s perfectly fine!
What most SEOs don’t know is that they are getting very few conversions from the ads that are displayed on Mobile Devices.
The culprit here is not the content or the CRO, but the page load speed of the website.
A majority of the users abandon the landing page due to the slow load speed.
According to the official Google document, pages that take more than 3 seconds to load lose a large segment of their audience due to the lack of speed optimization.
For these sites, AMP is a real boon just because the pages are already saved on Google’s cache and it loads in a blink.
It has been confirmed by Google that AMP landing pages give mobile users a better landing page experience.
In addition to this, having an AMP-enabled Landing Page can give your AdWords Quality and AdRank Score a real boost.
So, why wouldn’t you try it out?
AMP HTML ads on Google SERP is a relatively new feature, but setting up the landing page that supports the AMP ads is not different from setting up a normal AMP page.
Once the AMP landing page is ready, all you have to do is to start the campaign with a link.
If you have both AMP and non-AMP version for the landing page, Google can pick that up just like what they do with the organic results and display it when required.
So, ready to try AMP Landing Pages?
Is AMP Worth It?
Implementing Google AMP on your site is a decision that shouldn’t be taken in haste.
While, on one hand, it helps websites to rank well on Google SERP and load sites extremely fast, on the other hand, it comes with its own set of limitations.
Being in the early stage, the AMP project still makes its execution a challenging affair.
For WordPress CMS too, the AMP-integrated tools can often conflict with popular SEO plugins like Yoast.
We recommend new website owners to create a few pages to test in AMP and then decide whether its implementation will benefit your business or not.