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As we prepare for 2017, AMP is one of the biggest issues concerning your website on the horizon, especially if you’re a blogger.
Because more people are searching on mobile devices than desktop now, Google’s looking to provide the best user experience possible. Enter: AMP.
Defining AMP in plain language
AMP is just a special, faster version of a web page for mobile that appears in the Google SERP (search engine results page).
It doesn’t replace your normal page, but is loaded instead when a user clicks on a link from an AMP supported platform — such as a search result in Google or clicking from Twitter’s native browser.
Have you ever read a blog post via RSS? Maybe on an RSS reader like Flipboard, BlogLovin’, or even in an email? It’s exactly like that. Your website design isn’t there anymore, but your user is able to read the meat of your article (text, images, and video).
AMP also makes use of a proxy-based CDN (content delivery network) — Google AMP Cache — for even faster delivery of AMP-valid pages.
(Ok, that’s not exactly plain language — but all you really need to know is that behind the scenes, Google makes AMP pages perform the way they want them to: FAST.)
If you have AMP pages, Google will give them priority in the SERP over your regular mobile (or desktop) version of the page when people search on mobile.
It’s important to understand why Google is making this change
Google’s raison d’être is to provide answers to people’s questions. So as mobile becomes the dominant way people use the web, Google wants the user experience to be on point. For you, that means you must be optimized for mobile to have any chance for Google love.
This, by the way, includes not only making sure your pages are fast-loading, but that you’re not impeding the user experience with intrusive interstitials. (Translation: Google’s going to penalize site owners for those bloody annoying pop-ups, most especially on mobile.)
AMP pages are already appearing at the top of SERP, and in Google’s News Carousel that appears above the fold on mobile, so these results will appear before other, organic results. No denying his will impact click through rates and impressions.
But then what? What happens on the website? Are you able to still achieve your business objectives?
The question is, should you switch to AMP delivery of your website content?
Maybe. Or maybe not. Here are some things to consider:
AMP will not give you an additional ranking boost, and you will not be penalized for not delivering AMP pages
I’ve noticed some people *cough* are using language around this issue that’s designed to scare people. Like, if you don’t (hire us and) rush on the AMP bandwagon, you’ll be sorry. Nonsense. (I’m not a fan of using buzzwords as scare tactics to drum up business, grrrr.)
Don’t just rush out and switch everything over to AMP because you think you’ll beat your competitors out in search, or that you’ll be penalized in some way if you don’t. For now at least, you won’t. How do I know? Google said so.
Google looks at how mobile-friendly and fast your web pages are — that is a ranking signal. Not whether or not it’s an AMP page.
Obviously because AMP pages are lightening-fast, it will improve your SEO if you’re currently serving slow pages and serve up an AMP page instead. And Google searchers may become more likely to click on AMP content, and I expect that to be the case, but I’ve not read any research on that as of this writing. We’ll see.
I always like to remind my clients that Google results are just one component of SEO and of an online marketing program. Being found in Google SERP is more important for some businesses than others. For authors? Amazon is the more important search engine. For foodie or fashion bloggers? My money’s on Pinterest (yes, Pinterest is a search engine, not a social network).
[BTW, Pinterest does support AMP, but I haven’t discovered any evidence that shows they’re prioritizing AMP in their search algorithm. If you know something-something, hit me up in comments, please!]
I’m just saying, whether AMP is critical for you depends. I’d advise you to weigh the cost of these stripped-down versions of your pages from a marketing-perspective overall.
While AMP is great for users, it’s not always ideal for marketers
(I have to say yet because we’re in the beginning phase of this and Google is likely to make changes over time.)
But think about it. You’ve set up a sales funnel designed to capture leads or drive sales and now all of a sudden, every element on the page that allows you to engage with your site visitors is stripped. No more lead-generation forms, no more social sharing… and I can’t even imagine how detrimental it would be for e-commerce pages. You have to balance the desire to get noticed in Google mobile search with how important those elements are to your business.
And if your traffic isn’t heavily weighted on Google search, then you have even more reason to approach this with caution.
But still, ignore your site’s mobile performance and page load time at your peril
We know from research that:
40% of users will click off your page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Google Page Insights is your best friend in 2017. If your website registers RED, you have some optimizing to do. GTmetrix is another BFF. There, you can see exactly how fast any web page is loading and what needs fixing.
This week, a woman in one of my Facebook groups asked for a critique of her new website. Professional photography? Gorgeous. Logo and branding? Stunning. Everybody gushed. But as a web designer, I’m only partially concerned with how pretty a website is, so I ran it through Google Page Insights and it received a score of 16/100 on mobile. And on GTmetrix, the page load score of 3.9 seconds (F). I know that 40% of her mobile site visitors aren’t even going to see it, so the critique was, “Beautiful… but you have some work to do.”
(I know, I’m a meanie, but it’s because I care.)
Dudes, I’ve agonized over my own website optimization and I still have work to do. It’s a process. Just be aware of this issue, it’s important, and will only become more important with time. People expect the web to be fast and easy, and nothing’s going to reverse that trend.
If you’re on WordPress, it’s not hard to set up Google AMP
There are several plugins that make it easy to set up AMP pages.
First, you’ll need a plugin to provide support for AMP pages. This will automatically generate the amp pages. It adds an “/amp” to the end of your URLS, so once you set that up, go to your page on a mobile phone and add “/amp” to the end of the URL to view it. (Or, you can test it in your google Search console with this tool: https://search.google.com/search-console/amp)
Go to the AMP Plugin →
And then a plugin to help you control the settings and style — these designate which pages and posts you want to be delivered with AMP (it’s not an all or nothing thing, PHEW!) and some very basic styling options, such as colors, fonts, and adding a logo. You’ll also manage analytics of your new AMP pages through these plugins.
But wait! It’s not as simple as “oh! I’ll just install some plugins and I’m good to go.” Be sure to test those pages for errors and see what’s left on the page, what elements might need to be re-thought? What happens to the most important element on that page — your CTA (call to action)?
You’ll want to optimize those AMP pages to meet your marketing objectives, and there’s no easy way to do that just for AMP (… yet).
Here’s what I mean: if your CTA is a “sign up for my newsletter” form, you might replace it with a link to a non-AMP landing page for people to enter their information, like that. But you can’t just deliver that solution for AMP, you’ll have to change your regular page.
Do you want to do that? Will it hurt conversions? Maybe. My gut says probably. And what about navigation? If the user consumes your content but it’s not easy for them to learn more about you, is it worth it to you? Or is there a way you can rethink how users might navigate around your site without the traditional menu? (Lots of internal linking inside your blog content, certainly, and maybe some other navigation found within the post? I don’t know… ideas? Help?)
This is all very new, and I expect options for improving AMP for marketers will evolve over time; after all — if their goal is to improve the user experience, it can’t forever be in direct conflict with the goals of businesses and marketers, right?
Not all types of pages need to be formatted for AMP, but some really should
Primarily, AMP is for news articles and blog posts. Right now, in my view, it makes no sense for your marketing, landing, or e-commerce pages. But do make sure those pages are fast and mobile friendly.
If your website monetization model relies on news articles and blog posts to generate certain types of ad revenue (of course Google still wants people to make money with Adsense) supported by AMP, I’d say take a deeper look, fo’ sho.
Why I won’t be making the switch to AMP… yet.
I’ll be keeping my eye on AMP to see how it evolves, but right now, I’ve decided there isn’t a pressing urgency to make the switch. Quite simply, I’ll lose too many important site features which allow me to engage with my visitors and to capture leads for it to be worth it.
But, I do expect I’ll deliver some select AMP pages in the coming year, after I come up with a creative solution to the marketing problems AMP pages pose for me.
I think ultimately, AMP is the way we’re heading, and I’m all for a better user experience, but right now I gotta pay bills too.
You’ll have to made that call for your own business. Will you be implementing AMP for yours?
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.