53% of mobile visitors leave a webpage that doesn’t load within three seconds. The average load time is between 14 and 19 seconds according to Google. So Google came up with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to speed things along. But what does this mean for websites?
For the first time ever, we’re living in a world where the majority of Internet usage (51.3%, according to StatCounter) comes from mobile devices. This figure is hardly likely to scare you. We knew this was coming. That’s why we all set about making our websites mobile responsive and developing mobile-first strategies. We were forewarned, so we forearmed ourselves.
Then the rules of combat went and changed.
Mobile is still a top priority for businesses, but the way we prioritize mobile is being dealt a curve ball, and we don’t really know how to react.
So What Is This AMP?
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is the open-source program from Google specifically designed to make browsing the Internet on a mobile better and faster.
A probable technological response to Facebook’s Instant Articles (which enabled media articles to be shown up to 10 times faster and read without even leaving Facebook), AMP is basically a stripped-down version of your main website. This lighter website then loads much faster on a mobile, not only because it’s leaner and cleaner and optimized for mobile, but also because it’s cached by Google, meaning no server requests getting in the way of delivery.
It basically means mobile browsers coming from search pages being shown web pages in virtually no time at all.
It’s no doubt that users will love this improvement, but what does it mean for businesses? The very definition of AMP poses more questions than it answers. How stripped down are we talking? Won’t Google caching mask my analytics? Wasn’t not having two websites the goal?
So let’s look at the pros and cons of going AMP.
AMP Up the Speed and Everyone Wins
In a world where you lose 47% of your traffic after just three seconds of load time, speed of delivery couldn’t be more important. AMP-optimized pages load in about one sixth of the time of a normal page (around 88% faster, according to the Washington Post) with the median time an AMP takes to load being just half a second.
The big Google AMP plan is for it to be able to use the same code to load rich-content pages (video, animation, graphics, etc.) alongside smart ads across multiple platforms and devices… instantly.
According to a study commissioned by Google, AMP can increase website traffic by 10%, more than double the time spent on a page, decrease bounce rates by 35%, increase ad viewability by 25%, and lead to a 20% increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP pages.
The study also looked at the relationship between page speed and revenue, finding that mobile sites that loaded in 5 seconds generated up to twice as much in mobile ad revenue as those loading in the traditional 19 seconds.
So far, so good. Faster sites please users while making marketing and sales teams very happy.
A New Spin on Mobile Search Ranking
Google claims that AMP pages don’t get a massive boost in search ranking for mobile. It stands to reason, however, that if you signal to Google that your pages are prepared for faster mobile loading times—and, therefore, enhanced mobile user experiences—then you stand a better chance of getting a higher rank than similar non-AMP pages on Google SERPs governed by mobile readiness.
Another SEO-related benefit of AMPs is that they ride in a horizontal carousel above all other results for broad, high-traffic searches, and the algorithm may well learn to pull more and more AMP results.
It’s clear, therefore, that having AMPs does play a role in ranking for mobile searches.
So what does this mean? Well, it means maintaining two versions of your website. Didn’t we just go responsive so we didn’t have to do that? Yes. Yes, we did.
But should Google start evaluating your online presence on the lighter AMP version of your site, rather than your carefully search-engine-optimized “full” website, it will have a lot less content to evaluate and that content may be much less valuable in terms of SEO. Hopefully, the faster load times would work in your favor, but you’ll likely have to do SEO on the light version too…
Weren’t advancements meant to make things easier? Well, Google has 86.3% of the search engine market share, so who are we to comment?
Difficulties with Going AMP
Despite Google working hard to ensure that AMP is easy to implement, there are some teething troubles, like conflicting information and frequent updates.
The code is open-source and Google does provide optimization tutorials, but AMP integration tools are not necessarily compatible with other website add-ons. And AMP-ready pages have very little branding or distinction, as getting rid of load-heavy design elements is part of what makes them fast.
The other reason AMPs load so fast is that Google serves a cached version of your site to users. So you’re not serving up the content you originally created, but Google is serving up a copy-cached version that it stores.
It is less of a drain on your servers if you get a lot of mobile traffic. But you can say goodbye to your current tracking, as AMPs store and track things differently than normal pages, even mobile-ready ones. No doubt some solution to this will surface, but right now, tracking in AMPs could become a major headache.
To AMP or Not to AMP…
As you can imagine, the opinion is split when it comes to how beneficial and how essential going AMP is.
Some see it as Google bullying businesses and taking over their content. Others are concerned by the loss of analytics thanks to their servers not being tapped and the potential plummeting of revenue from ads that have been stripped. Consistency would also take a hit as content and design would differ between mobile and desktop. But some are reveling in the benefits of faster load times and increased sales thanks to lower bounce rates.
If you have a blog or news site, the benefits of AMP are obvious. You can get your information to your mobile users quicker and cleaner than ever before and even appear in the Google News carousel.
For e-commerce sites, it’s a balancing act between the pros (faster load times, leading to longer page views, and possible boosted sales), and the cons (maintaining two versions of your website, doing double the SEO, losing tracking capabilities as well as full control over what content is served).
It’s a tough one, as mobile is where we’re all headed, so we should be getting our heads there. But this accelerated mobile technology, though rocket-science-esque in smart and lightning-esque in speed, lags behind our online expectations of what it means to have a mobile presence.
For this reason, many organizations are taking a sit-back-and-watch approach before making any major moves. But as we hurtle towards a mobile future, it’s never too soon to gather information, get up to speed on how implementation would work for your organization, work out the costs involved, and test a few pages.
AMP brings with it a whole host of questions, concerns, benefits, and opportunities, but it also brings standardization and definition to what “mobile ready” really is—something we would all dearly appreciate.
And with over 25 million website domains now publishing over 4 billion AMP pages, it’s about time we all glanced over to see what the fuss is about. Check out how you can leverage the Google AMP module on your Kentico site here. And to make life even easier, you can even get a free HTML to AMP HTML converter here.
Let me know your experience with AMP in the comments section below.