Mobile web experiences have come a long way since the days of creating a separate instance of your website for mobile. Everyone remembers the early days of the mobile web, using m.domain.com to visit the mobile version of a site. We graduated away from that practice and moved to the more sane concept of responsive web design.
One of these companies is Google. Because Google has such influence in the sphere of search, it would be wise to pay attention to what they see value in with regards to websites, especially in the vast and continuously growing mobile segment.
What is Google AMP?
n 2015 Google announced they were working on and would reveal an open source project called “Accelerated Mobile Pages”, or AMP. Because such a large number of Google’s user base consumes content from tablets and smartphones, Google wants to improve the speed and usability of websites that provide multimedia content.
AMP files take advantage of technical and architectural approaches that emphasise speed to provide a faster experience to your visitors. AMP developers have a vast and growing library of web components supplied by AMP that enable the ability to embed multimedia like video and social posts, display advertising, or the ability to collect analytics (via Google Analytics for example). Google’s goal is not to limit what content looks and feels like, but instead to make it easier for developers to think about website speed when developing pages. In addition to all these improvements and added features for developers and content creators, AMP files can be cached and served by a sophisticated CDN to reduce the time content takes to get to a user’s mobile device.
You’ve likely seen AMP pages in the wild, often appearing in the top of Google search, especially on mobile. These pages often remove functionality, but they load faster and perform better on all devices.
How is Google changing its search experience?
Google will now take speed into account when deciding how to rank pages as of July 2018. They will also downrank very slow websites. This comes after going to great lengths to highlight the value of AMP pages. Google has been moving further towards punishing sites that are too bloated and slow for mobile users, and it appears the time is finally here where rankings will not only reflect what is most relevant but also what will be able to provide an acceptable experience across all devices.
If you have depended on Google to provide traffic to your website in the past, you’ll most certainly be interested in finding out if you meet the acceptable criteria from Google’s perspective, or if you have changes to make.
A great place to begin to make changes would be to adopt the technology that Google has made available via AMP. This open source initiative provides you with the ability to provide a scaled down version of your website, and leverage a cache to serve your content to visitors faster than you might be able to just using your simple web server. That speed could also now provide you with an advantage in search.
You might be wondering if you should use AMP. We’ll briefly go over the advantages and disadvantages.
What are the benefits of using Google AMP?
Pages that you create with AMP HTML are going to load much faster than if you use a traditional website with a standard web server. There will be less strain on your servers overall because you’ll be leveraging Google’s cache to serve these pages. Google is favouring AMP pages on mobile so that you might see a boost in traffic there as well as some possible e-commerce conversion increases.
The advantages of higher speed extend beyond a just favourable position in search. There are other advantages you might see as pleasing users who primarily read on mobile devices. We’ve all been to a website on mobile that takes 10 seconds to load and then doesn’t fit correctly on the screen and redirects us when we try to scroll. Google AMP serves to correct most of these issues, and by leveraging this technology, you could see higher traffic and happier visitors. So it’s something to think about using for your website.
Are there any disadvantages to using AMP?
There are some disadvantages to using this technology from Google. Your analytics (like Google Analytics) won’t work automatically with your AMP pages. You’ll need to apply a new tag after creating these pages retroactively.
You are also adding more work to your website workflow because you will need to create a version of your site for both desktop and mobile. If you have a huge website, you will need to be thoughtful and mindful of the extra you’ll be adding to your website development and content creation practices.
In addition to those issues, you might also encounter design problems. Because AMP uses a stripped down version of HTML, you might not be able to use designs that have been created using standard HTML. If your design matters to you and it doesn’t work in Google AMP, you’ll need to invest some time in re-developing your design for Google AMP.
These disadvantages are mostly avoidable, but if your website is large, or you rely heavily on design or analytics, you should know there are some extra steps in between your site and Google AMP pages.
Should I use Google AMP?
Given the changing climate around search, if your website is served to visitors using a regular server and you have not yet adopted the use of a sophisticated CDN or a JAMstack approach to building websites, it makes a lot of sense for you to start implementing Google AMP into your site.
AMP pages are most useful for pages like news articles, PPC landing pages, product pages, and forms. Pages that need to load very fast for visitors and are primarily either serving content or diving conversions. You don’t need to AMP-ify your terms and conditions pages for example. Just the content that you see is available via a search engine, or are being heavily viewed on mobile, and need a fast load time to encourage more conversions.
Most websites rely heavily on search, and with Google cracking down on slow loading websites, and providing the AMP technology. It would be wise to heed their warning and either adopt AMP or take steps yourself to increase your website’s speed.
How do you implement Google AMP?
Google provides a very detailed explanation of how to create and serve AMP pages to your visitors here.
- Create your AMP HTML page
- Include multimedia content
- Modify the presentation and layout
- Preview and validate your website
- Prepare your page for discovery and distribution
- Final steps before publishing
- Publish your website
The process is relatively straightforward, but as you can see, there is extra work involved in creating these pages that might eat into other content creation or development time. This might make or break the potential for you to adopt this technology. If this process does not seem like something that you could adapt to your workflow, you might want to consider other methods for increasing the speed of your website.
Google has consistently made improvements and changes to its search experience, and as of July 2018, the speed of a website has been made to be a more critical aspect of how a site ranks.
If you want to deliver the best experience on mobile to your users, we may be back to the point where you think about two separate experiences if you are relying on standard servers to serve your website content to your visitors.
Google AMP might come with some extra work, but the benefits are clear, and Google has been touting these benefits for a few years before implementing these changes.