What is Google AMP?
The Google’s AMP program is a way of fast-tracking content to mobile devices. It improves upon the traditional model of serving mobile content because it relies on a specific form of HTML, called AMP HTML, to strip down the presentation of content. Here’s an example of what an AMP page features like when carried out on an iPhone 6.
The net effect is that the mobile user will see articles with comparatively basic text and images, but that content will load up to 10 times faster (or more!) over traditionally formatted content.
Why is Google AMP important for SEO?
As Google often preaches to businesses, page speed and mobile-readiness are high-quality ranking distinctions that determine the placement of a site’s content link in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The faster a site is (among other ranking signals), and the more it caters to mobile devices, the more likely it is to be seen and clicked on by Google search users.
Since 2013, Google has been developing from being the company that provides links to other sites in search results to the company that provides answers to questions in search results.
For example, the “featured snippets” aspect of Google, shown below, has been a method of providing quick answers in search results to simple questions such as “Who won the 1969 World Series?”
But featured snippets don’t work well for more complex questions, like “What are the main issues in the 2016 presidential election?” Those types of questions lend themselves more to in-depth articles. Unfortunately, when simple answers are not reasonable, one must load another page that may be slow to load on mobile devices. As a result, Google has been developing ways to make the links you click on in search results load more quickly. And now, with Google’s AMP Project, they have been making those emerge more certainly in SERPs.
How does Google AMP work?
There are three parts to Google AMP:
- AMP HTML
- AMP JS
- AMP Cache
AMP Cache, or the AMP Content Delivery Network (AMP CDN), is Google’s system of servers doing the heavy lifting of grabbing your most recent content and pre-positioning it around the globe. This ensures that a page summoned from, say, Italy doesn’t need to be sent over the wire from Mountain View, California each time it’s requested. Instead, Google places a pre-rendered, optimized copy of that AMP page on a server close to or in Italy. The CDN is refreshed each time an article is updated or revised.
The positive impacts of AMP on SEO & online marketing
Faster-loading articles improve the publisher/reader relationship. Speed is the most obvious benefit to publishers using AMP for improved SEO. That speed converts into more page views and less frustrated readers, which also translate to more ad views, sharing, and engagement with content.
1.) AMP-entitled articles will rank higher in SERPs
AMP content will have the advantage of being shown above the fold, at the top of Google searches, unless Google changes how and whether it displays all AMP results in this way. An example or precedent of how AMP pages are displayed in search results is shown below.
Currently, AMP articles appear in a swipeable carousel. For now, there is not a paid placement option, but it may appear in the future. AMP-entitled articles do have an icon or portrait in the SERPs indicating that they are erected on AMP.
2.) Paid search impressions will likely increase
After observing an AMP-based piece of content, the most common thing users do is click back to the SERP to see what else there might be. This will positively affect the number of paid search impressions over time.
3.) Google AMP is for every publisher
Facebook limits participation in its Instant Articles feature to just a select set of publishers. With Google AMP, anyone with a little know-how or willingness to learn can format his or her content to be accessed quickly by a potentially enormous number of readers.
4.) AMP is open source
This means that contributions to its evolution or advancement are not limited to the world of Google’s best and brightest developers. Anyone who has a thought for making it prominent can contribute to the specification. AMP’s feature set will more readily adapt to a changing publishing world.
5.) Analytics are coming for AMP
According to Google, several analytics providers — including comScore, Adobe Analytics, Parse.ly, and Chartbeat — are gearing up their services to tell publishers how well their AMP content is doing. In fact, the AMP specification provides guideline for advocating current AMP analytics vendors, as well as how to support your own custom analytics solution for AMP.
6.) Content gets to more readers
Even though AMP largely benefits Google in that it bolsters them compete with Facebook’s Instant Articles, that improved reach benefits publishers because their content can now be more widely read when users click on them in Google’s SERPs — not just in Facebook’s walled garden.
7.) More features and formatting options are coming
Even though AMP deals in a limited set of tags for formatting pages, all’s not lost. There are still loads of comprehensive components and even some experimental components to be released as they become available.
The negative impacts of AMP on SEO & online marketing
1.) There are no forms in AMP content
That means that if a publisher’s goal is to generate leads by inviting a reader to subscribe or submit his contact information, it’s going to have to wait until AMP provides an upgrade to the specification that allows publishers to have forms in their AMP-optimized content.
2.) AMP doesn’t solve the problem of page speed SEO for non-publisher sites
It really only covers “news”-type articles and blog posts and is not intended for speeding up general e-commerce or brand sites. An e-commerce site that doesn’t focus on articles or blog posts as its main content will probably find the design constraints of AMP much too restrictive and will want to stick to traditional HTML.
3.) The number of paid search result item impressions could go down
If the search term is broad or general (i.e. “news,” “fashion,” or “food”), AMP articles will presumably appear more often than paid search results items. Only time and analytics will correct for assumptions here.
5.) Domain Authority may suffer
From their Learn SEO page: “Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.” One of the factors included in the calculation is the number of linking root domains. An indirect negative effect would be that a publisher’s site would earn fewer links. That’s because other sites linking to AMP content will not be linking to the publisher’s domain name, but to google.com. For instance, here’s a screenshot of an article loaded on an iPhone 6 as accessed or retrieved from an AMP carousel search.
Note that the URL, https://www.google.com/amp/www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/35800232#, begins with “www.google.com/amp/” and then tacks on the article’s originating domain. When seeing the article, visitors will still be on Google.com, not on the publisher’s website.
6.) The way publishers serve ads inline with content will necessarily change
This could be a good thing, in that it will force publishers to rethink their ads so that they no longer annoy the 16% of customers who block their ads anyway. It could be a horrific thing for publishers who depend on high-bandwidth, superfluous-designed ads to grab attention, though. They’ll have to either opt out of AMP or find another advertising strategy. Of course, if a publisher is part of the Google AMP ads partnership of Outbrain, AOL, OpenX, DoubleClick, and AdSense, the publisher’s own burden of improving its ads is greatly reduced. More ad partners are being delivered into the fold as they come into compliance with the AMP spec for their ads.
7.) Budgeting for content development will need to increase
If you don’t have a CMS that already supports AMP, you’ll need to budget for developing in AMP or build into your custom or extensible CMS as an additional feature.
8.) Publishers can’t get away with poorly-constructed HTML pages with AMP
This is actually both a positive and a negative aspect of AMP. On the positive side, every page has to be free of errors before Google will even pick it up and put it in the AMP caches. This means that users will have a better experience downloading the content on a variety of devices. However, on the negative side, publishers will need to budget time (and developer hours) to further debug every page. Fortunately, Google has provided a validator with AMP.
Page speed is a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. The fact that Google has come out with its own way of engineering and displaying content faster and more concisely speaks to its desire to make page speed an even more important indicator of a page’s value in SERPs.
If a site deals primarily in long-form, news-type content (as opposed to marketing or selling its products), then it’s a good candidate for an AMP overhaul. If publishers only add AMP to get ahead of the emerging trend towards mobile-optimized content, they’ll be doing themselves and their SEO ranking a favor.
By now, you may be wondering what you can do to boost your page speed, given its increasing importance. We’ve got an awesome free performance report you can use to get actionable intel on how to optimize your site for speed and performance. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested in learning steps you can take to improve your website’s performance.
Thoughts or questions about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages? Let us know in the comments!