As I wrote about a year ago, having a site that is optimized for mobile would become more important than ever in the future. Responsive and mobile-ready design is a must for all websites, in my opinion. Frankly, I don’t build websites that don’t offer a responsive version of the site, on top of the desktop version.
And, now Google has rolled out AMP, also known as “accelerated mobile pages,” in search results. AMP is a Google-backed project designed as an open standard for any publisher to make pages load quickly on mobile devices. And, starting February 24th, 2016, Google made it live in mobile search results.
AMP is a logical extension of Google’s ever growing mobile-first approach towards serving up content to users. These pages appear on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, up to four times faster than the same pages built without the technology, while using 1/10th of the data.
AMP version of web pages may not be what most people expect when they think of “mobile versions” of their website. AMP is not the same as “responsively designed” websites. AMP pages effectively strip out any design, styling, and sometimes even menus from the pages that are served up. While this may be good for publishers that have text heavy websites, and aren’t as concerned about design and branding, like professional bloggers and news publishing sites, it may not be the best option for many company websites. Sites that rely on keeping their brand consistent may be better served by well-coded mobile-friendly responsive design.
The existence of AMP is not a search ranking signal right now, but it could be in the future.
With AMP, page styles are effectively stripped from pages, using specialized AMP coding, leaving a bare-bones mobile page. The type one might have expected to see in the late 90’s and early 2000’s on a desktop. Just a headline, text and minimal graphics. Certainly, by stripping style elements, the pages will load faster on mobile, since the mobile browser doesn’t have to load things like special fonts, CSS and custom scripts that bring functionality to a desktop or responsive website. But, at what cost?
It seems to me, having a lean and effective responsive website, to begin with, is generally what most companies should be striving for. This means working with a website developer who understands how to write clean and effective code that loads pages quickly on mobile devices, without sacrificing company branding elements.
However, that being said, AMP pages are dominating mobile news results. So if you are a news publisher or heavy blogger, now is the time to opt for AMP. Website visitors will appreciate the convenience that you will be providing them, so you can expect a boost in your traffic and ratings.
AMP pages are placed in the top stories carousel, above the rest of the mobile search results, which will give AMP pages an additional ranking boost. However, AMP is not a ranking signal right now, according to Googler John Mueller. But, it could be at some point in the future.
When someone does a Google search for web pages, an AMP page will show the AMP words with a lightning bolt next to it, as shown in the graphic above. Currently, visitors will only be able to view an AMP page when coming to it from a search page on Google. Devices won’t automatically serve up the AMP version of a page on their own, just because a mobile device is accessing it. They must click on a Google search link to go to that version of your website’s page.
For web publishers who make money on ad revenue, understand that the way AMP works with advertising will depend on your ad network, and if they have updated their technologies to be AMP compliant. Google does not want to work with ad networks that detract from the user experience on mobile. So be aware of this when considering the option.
According to an article in Search Engine Watch about AMP and advertising:
Google sets out four “key principles” that guide its approach to advertising on AMP: it should be fast, beautiful, secure (use of HTTPS will be mandatory) and involve co-operation across the industry. The company is insistent that working according to these principles will be the key to unlocking the “next $50 billion” of advertising revenue on mobile.
In short, with the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages, Google is very much expecting marketers to dance to its tune, and conform to its own vision of what a better mobile web should look like in order to reap the rewards.
Google does offer some useful resources to help you get started with AMP content, and shows you how you can get included in the top stories carousel.
Google has repeatedly said that people love speed and it is crucial to the long-term success of your website. It is always beneficial to speed up the loading times of your website, whether through serving up AMP versions of your pages, or effective responsive design.
I will be following up in the weeks to come with more information about how websites, specifically WordPress sites, can dip their toe into AMP a bit and give it a try to see if it works for them.