Gavin Hirst - Monday 29th February 2016


How is Google’s AMP changing the mobile web?

On February 24 2016, Google announced that it was now including Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in their search results. Although the Google AMP project had been announced as far back as October of 2015, this was the day that mobile optimised web content, and in particular, mobile optimised news stories would receive a rankings boost when created as an AMP. As you can see from the screenshot below, the Google AMP ‘icon’ started to appear on news stories in Google search results around the world (as yet, it has not appeared in NZ):

What is Google AMP?

For those who are not too sure what the Google AMP project is all about, here is a quick summary:

  • Open source initiative to improve the mobile ecosystem
  • Pared down version of HTML enables pages to load super fast
  • Cached on Google’s own cache to speed up load time
  • Loads content before adverts

Speed is everything when it comes to the user experience on a mobile device. By only allowing web developers to use a narrow set of web technologies to create pages, this dramatically speeds up the page load time. The biggest thing that has been cut out is the use of JavaScript which is mainly forbidden.

The fact that Google caches AMP content on their own servers (when accessed through Google search) also dramatically speeds up the page load time.

Who can use AMP?

Basically, anyone can create pages using AMP. You basically have to create an alternative version of your site that conforms to the specifications set out in the AMP project. Once you have created a page based on these pared down specifications, you will typically give that AMP-optimised page a separate address e.g. yoursite.co.nz/yourpage/amp/.

Although anyone can use AMP, the biggest winners so far are publishers. When news results are returned in Google, those pages that use AMP are already being seen to be getting a rankings boost (although not here in NZ as yet). At the moment, this appears to be the biggest benefit, however given the emphasis that Google places on fast loading pages and the impact on UX, it is likely that the benefits will be seen across any page accessed via a mobile device that uses AMP.

Benefits and drawbacks of AMP

Speed matters and sites like Facebook are already tapping into this with their Instant articles service which basically keeps users within the Facebook platform rather than sending them out to the linking article. Whilst this is great for those who use Facebook for publishing articles, the content created for Instant Articles cannot be embedded on other sites. It is widely expected that Twitter and Pinterest are to begin using AMP to embed pages on their sites and mobile apps in the near future. Google’s aim for publishers to take advantage of the open web’s potential so more of their content can appear everywhere quickly – across all platforms and apps.

On the downside, if a user decides to share your article created using AMP that they have discovered through Google search, the link they share doesn’t point directly to your website. Instead it points to the Google server at Google.com e.g. google.com/amp/yoursite.co.nz/yourpage/amp/ – there is no way to gain the benefits of ranking better in the SERPs and not having your content cached on the Google server. For us, this is not a deal breaker. Although Google is keeping more of its readers within the Google ecosystem, amassing content on their own servers, they are still providing the opportunity for you to have your own content seen by more people as well as improving the experience for the user when they get there.

What next for AMP?

If you’re a big publisher of news and blog articles, we definitely recommend looking into this further. At the moment, AMP is not a ranking factor. Only those pages appearing in the News Box are seeing a benefit from AMP. As the project grows and develops and is pushed out across all mobile pages, expect to see AMP factored into Google ranking signals but until then, focus on your news and blog content.

As of 29 February, Google AMP was still not displaying on News Box results in New Zealand. We will provide an update once this changes.

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