In February 2016, Google introduced their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project as an initiative to help improve mobile web browsing speed. Google recognized that most people have smartphones, and therefore walk around with daily access to the Internet, but are bouncing off of sites because of slow page load times. This led Google, and other industry leaders, to discover that the biggest setback to current Internet accessibility is slow mobile browsing and slow page load times.
AMP HTML pages are simplified versions of webpages that focus on streamlining content for faster load times in order to allow mobile users to load a page instantly.
The AMP project is gathering together big name publishers such as the BBC, Time Inc, The Huffington Post, and big tech companies likes Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn and Pinterest to use this open source AMP HTML. Together they are creating content that can be easily distributed and is listed above regular search results on an AMP Google search.
In an effort to help with mobile speed, Google has specified that AMP files are being cached in cloud based software for no additional cost. This cloud based caching is being using in conjunction with Chrome’s new compression software Brotli which compresses 26% more than its predecessor, making AMP page load-times seem light speed.
Below is an example of what Accelerated Mobile Pages look like on a mobile browser.
As you can see, results are loaded in a carousel above the traditional results and ads. Here a user can easily swipe between the different new stories for their query. So for this example a search for Obama creates news stories from BBC, ABC News, USA Today, Yahoo etc.Inside of the AMP users can either browse that particular articles by scrolling up/down or they can swipe left/right to another news source already preloaded, without having to go to that external site. So taking the above example a user can easily, and quickly swipe between the BBC News story on Obama to the ABC News story on Obama.
How Accelerated Mobile Pages Affect Mobile Users
A mobile user browsing an AMP HTML site will initially notice a huge improvement in not only page speed but data usage. AMP HTML pages provide basic search results within Google, which reduce data usage by up to 80% when compared to loading the same pages on a regular mobile browser. AMP basic results can also occur whenever there is a spotty or slow Internet connection, helping to give users seamless browsing.
Google is also experimenting with having apps available through the cloud, which means users will now be able to access apps and data through cloud storage instead of having to download it directly to their mobile device. However these faster loading times come at the price of design, as AMP pages are less stylized and interactive than their regular mobile counterparts.
How Accelerated Mobile Pages Affect Site Owners
The Good: Faster Page Load Times Means More Mobile Traffic
Let’s start with a positive impact of AMP: faster load times make information more accessible, and you can therefore expect an increase in mobile traffic to your site.
A test done when the AMP project launched showed the vast difference AMP makes on mobile page load times. The same New York Times Story took:
- Desktop: 0.985 seconds to load (3.82 seconds to load fully)
- Mobile: 0.857 seconds to load (2.99 seconds to load fully)
- AMP Mobile: 0.240 seconds to load (0.646 seconds to load fully)
Looking at these metrics underscores the potential for faster load times on an AMP version. Even on a fast loading site like the New York Times Article above, regular mobile page load times are clocking in at just under three seconds, which is an important metric because it is estimated that as many as 40% of mobile users will abandon a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
There is nothing more frustrating to a user than a slow loading page, and nothing more frustrating to a site owner than higher bounce rates because of slow load times. When shaving off a few crucial seconds, or tenths of seconds can actually mean the difference between a lead generation, and a page bounce, AMP sites are something site owners should take note of. The good news is that accelerated mobile pages load up to four times faster than regular pages, with eight times less of the regular data, making your site more accessible for mobile users than ever.
The Good: Access to Wearable and Smart TV Users
One of the largest potential positive impacts of AMP comes from the fact that AMP HTML is great for wearable technology and smart TVs. The current trend of technology shifting towards wearables and Apple TVs, paired with the fact that responsive web design is not faring well in either of those two areas, makes AMP very enticing to content publishers. For many site owners and content creators, it may be better to adapt and capitalize on those two user bases than resist AMP HTML.
The Bad: Need To Use Different HTML Formats
Here is how Google breaks down AMP:
- AMP HTML is the basic HTML coding which has different commands based on optimizing page load speed. Photos, videos, and other aspects of your site will be coded different through this structure.
- AMP CDN caches your content for quick delivery
Site owners will need to create two versions of their web pages; one that is the regular desktop version, and one that is an AMP with AMP HTML.
The Bad: Loss of Forms and Design in Favour of Speed
One drawback for many site owners is that these stripped down AMP sites are not showing any of your design features and also do not allow for forms. This could mean a loss of email leads, which is critical for many business owners. Until a workaround is found for this type of lead capturing it is important for site owners to understand the potential losses to their lead generation that may be experienced in an AMP website.
The Unknown: Impact on SEO Rankings & Responsive Web Design
First it is important to note that AMP is not a ranking factor at this time, although having AMP will signal to Google that a page is mobile friendly. Currently Accelerated Mobile Pages are showing up as a carousel above the regular rankings, making them more accessible to mobile users. So for example users who search a new related term can easily swipe through different AMP that relate to their search query in this carousel.
Another thing worth noting is that pages with responsive web design, which are currently the ideal option for websites to display properly across any given device, are in many cases not showing up in the basic search results list. This is something that could change, as Google is still smoothing out AMP as they are rolling it out to the public. But in general responsive web designs are bulky and not easily streamlined to the basic AMP design.
What we don’t know as of yet is how AMP will directly affect SEO rankings. It could divert traffic away from top rankings sites as the carousel sits above organic rankings. Google could also choose to rank websites different in AMP mode versus desktop browsers. In the meantime, make sure you have a strong headline, hero image, and that the first couple hundred words of your pages are the strongest, because these three elements are what are being featured in the carousel right now.
The Unknown: Impact on Advertising
AMP should not directly impact your advertising as Google has said they will support a large range of ad formats and sites with AMP HTML will be able to stay on their own ad networks. The following ad networks are currently supported by AMP HMTL:
- Dot and Media
- Smart AdServer
It is unclear if Google will expand to support more ad networks, or how these ads will be formatted within AMP at this time.
The Future of AMP
Publishing content for mobile seems to be shifting towards formats similar to AMP across all major sites (including social media sites such as Facebook). Google’s AMP is unsurprisingly the most popular of these formats and as has been proven in the past, Google can basically call the shots when it comes to rankings. So it would be best to learn how to adapt to these new Accelerated Mobile Pages in order to benefit from their traffic, instead of being penalized further down the road in rankings. Ensure your current page speed is up to par by removing functions on your mobile versions that may slow down loading times (i.e. videos, large images, flash), and if you want to learn about how to start building AMP visit Google’s AMP Project.