Google AMP

A Publisher’s Guide to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

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Two seconds is all you get before your readers start bouncing off your website if the page they requested does not load.

Seems unrealistic? Fine, give it three seconds, but now you’re really gambling—roughly 40% of users will leave, and then it only goes downhill from there.

Page abandonment is a terrible incident for publishers: It increases bounce rate, decreases ad revenue, and generally throws a wet towel on all their hard work.

Page abandonment is bad news for ad networks too: It translates to lower commissions and when this happens on a large scale, the losses really adds up.

The largest of all these ad networks, AdSense, happens to be owned by Google—and being one of the foremost tech companies in the world, they decided to fix this situation by launching AMP.

What does it mean for you though? How can you implement it for your website? And more importantly, should you? Read on to find out in our guide on Google AMP.

What is Google AMP?

AMP is an open source project based on AMP HTML, a new open framework built out of existing web technologies, which allows websites to build light-weight webpages.

The primary goal of the project is to speed up the delivery of content on all mobile devices by stripping away all that is unessential.

Today, after discussions with publishers and technology companies around the world, we’re announcing a new open source initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages, which aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web. We want webpages with rich content like video, animations and graphics to work alongside smart ads, and to load instantaneously. We also want the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant—no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device you’re using. — Google Official Blog

With mobile traffic now accounting for over 50% of all traffic on the world wide web, publishers, advertisers, and developers can no longer afford to look the other way while users bounce from one page to another in frustration—and as far as Google is concerned—speed matters far more than features.

Some big news publications such as Time, The Atlantic, Vox, BBC, and The Huffington Post and a number of technology companies like WordPress, Twitter, Adobe Analytics, Chartbeat, LinkedIn, and Pinterest have already joined AMP.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of Google AMP is that it’s open source, and therefore any publisher can sign up and start using it, unlike other more tightly controlled projects such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News.

Is AMP Really That Fast?

Yes it is.

Jon Parise from Pinterest says, “Accelerated Mobile Pages load four times faster and use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages.”

Hey, why don’t you try it for yourself? Just open Google on your mobile device and type in anything that’s making news right now. I typed “Jake Gyllenhaal”, well, because I like Jake and he’s always making news.

Just above the search results, you will see a stack of horizontally scrollable cards tagged “AMP”. Clicking on a card will load that article.

You’ll notice the difference instantly as you open an AMP article—there’s no lag, no waiting for individual elements to load, no jittery movements on the page—the entire content of the page is delivered in one smooth motion and seems like a far cry from the regular webpages on the mobile web.

Copyblogger’s post on AMP explains this in numbers:

The AMP version reached “domContentLoaded — a key point in a webpage’s load where the HTML is fully downloaded and certain important parsing has been completed” in 0.857 seconds.

A blink of an eye takes around 0.33 seconds.

In other words, blink your eye twice and you, our subway commuter, can start reading the useful part of the content almost instantly, thanks to AMP.

Now that’s speed: When was the last time a page loaded on your mobile before you even blinked twice?

Does AMP Help SEO?

Even though Google has stated that AMP itself will not be a ranking signal, let’s not forget that since these AMP cards show up above the actual search results—there’s a huge built in SEO advantage to using AMP as a publisher.

Your results will always be on the top for the keyword a user a searching for.

Matt Southern from Search Engine Journal elaborates:

“My question is, what does it matter if AMP is a ranking signal or not if AMP content already has a one-way ticket to the top of the first page? For the most part AMP content is already ranking above organic results, which is one of the greatest ranking boosts one can ask for.”

So does AMP help with SEO? Technically speaking: No. But in practice? That would be a resounding yes.

Does AMP Support Ads?

This is really the big question for publishers. You’d be happy to know that AMP does indeed support advertising; at least for Google, that’s kind of like the whole point of this exercise anyway.

Ads help fund free services and content on the web. With Accelerated Mobile Pages, we want to support a comprehensive range of ad formats, ad networks and technologies. Any sites using AMP HTML will retain their choice of ad networks, as well as any formats that don’t detract from the user experience. It’s also a core goal of the project to support subscriptions and paywalls. We’ll work with publishers and those in the industry to help define the parameters of an ad experience that still provides the speed we’re striving for with AMP. — Google Official Blog

In fact, not only does AMP support AdSense but the following ad networks are supported as well: A9, Adblade, Adform, AdReactor, AdTech, Criteo, Dot and Media, Double-click, Flite, Industrybrains, OpenX, plists, Smart AdServer, Yieldmo, Revcontent, TripleLift, Teads, I-Mobile, and Webediads.

It goes without saying that all things being equal, publishers should see an improvement in ad performance and consequently ad revenue because those 40% or so users who were earlier bouncing off the page will actually stick around now to see the ads.

So, What’s the Catch?

I’m sure this all sounds too good to be true so far—so what’s the tradeoff? What is all this extra stuff that’s being “stripped away” to make the page load faster anyway?

Well, here’s what AMP strips away: Social media plugins, image carousels, videos, analytics software, tracking scripts, and many other things that are requested in the background when a page is being loaded.

It also does not support third party Javascript. That’s the secret to its speed. So obviously, implementing it for your content means losing out on the functionality linked to the things mentioned above.

Some say that AMP works out well only for larger publishers who already have a ready audience. Smaller publishers may be punished because they won’t be able to do basic things such as collecting emails because forms are not supported by AMP. Concerns like these may very well turn out to be a deal breaker for some publishers.

Whether or not it’s a deal breaker for you depends on your goals.

How Do I Implement AMP?

You’ll need to be familiar with markup to be able to set up an AMP page. I recommend that you take some time out and go through the official AMP tutorial and related guides once—if you’ve never worked with HTML before—this is where you ask your tech savvy friend or coworker to help you out a bit in understanding how this works.

With a little bit of effort, you’ll be able to:

  1. Create an AMP page using the boilerplate code.
  2. Stage it.
  3. Ensure AMP compliance by using Google’s validator.
  4. Publish and distribute.

In case you happen to be publishing on WordPress—you’re in luck. Automattic released an official WordPress plugin for AMP that dynamically converts all your post pages into AMP-compliant versions. This is immensely helpful as it saves you all the legwork. All you have to do is activate the plugin once and all your posts are instantly AMP-ified.

Are you already on AMP? Have you tried it yet? How has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments!

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