We are constantly striving to absorb as much information as possible within a short timeframe, and if your website content doesn’t load fast enough it can negatively impact your audience’s experience and in the long run even your search engine rankings. This is especially true when it comes to mobile users, a user-base that continues to grow quickly and is constantly moving.
If your site loads frustratingly slowly on mobile, Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) might be exactly what you need. These types of webpages are specifically designed to help improve the load speed and accessibility of online content for mobile devices, ensuring that mobile users can easily access your content without the frustration of having to deal with long loading times. These benefits, along with some additional creative aspects of AMP, can potentially help your content stand out amongst the rest.
A Brief History
As described by the creators themselves, AMP is “an open-source library that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously for users”. The service originally launched in October 2015, but it made its first appearance within search engine results in February 2016.
AMP was mainly positioned as a tool for publishers to ensure their content was fully optimized for mobile viewers. At the time, it was mainly promoted by Google for its potential to further improve mobile user experience, but over time search engines like Bing and media platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube began to promote and help in its development.
The main goal of AMP is simple: make visiting web pages for all mobile users as simple and fast as possible, regardless of what device they use.
What it Looks Like in Action
AMP pages are shown within Google search results as part of a carousel of content near the top of the page. These results can be scrolled through via the arrow buttons on the sides. These AMP pages are not strictly limited to text-based content — they can also be centered around videos, provided that the pages they are hosted on are seen as AMP-friendly.
These aren’t limited to news-related media content either, and can be used for a variety of topics, from food recipes to video game consoles. Social Media sites like Twitter have enabled users to optimize their tweets to be AMP-friendly, so they appear in the AMP carousel for the latest trending topics.
Implementing structured data within your webpage can help make it eligible to appear within the carousel, but it is ultimately up to Google what officially appears based off how relevant Google believes your content is to a user’s search query.
The Importance of AMP in 2019
If there was ever a time for a business to begin optimizing their content around AMP best practices, it would be now. More than half of all Google search queries are made on mobile devices, and marketers today know to keep their web page load times below the average user attention span of ~2 seconds. Optimizing content for AMP just makes sense.
A study on the impacts of AMP found that users spent twice the amount of time viewing AMP pages compared to the regular web page versions, as well as an overall increase in web traffic by 10%. These results benefit businesses by offering their online domain more attention, but can also help them ranking higher in SERPs, as Google usually favors pages based on relevance to users. That AMP Project study also found that e-commerce websites who optimized their pages saw a 20% average increase in sales conversions.
There is a common misconception that only a few businesses have put much thought into creating AMP-based content for their website, since it was initially marketed towards publishers and is mainly seen as being used for high-level news-related articles. This is no longer the case, which means that anyone from Fortune 500 companies to the flower shop down the street has the full potential to create and implement their own AMP pages.
But, why is AMP so controversial within the marketing community?
In the search marketing community, there has been near constant debate about AMP-based content. Why?
Publishers and developers are concerned about the strict guidelines that one must follow when creating an AMP-friendly page, such as using AMP-approved HTML and CSS. This, along with the continuously changing rules on how AMP pages should be structured, can make it both difficult and confusing for those who are creating an AMP page for the first time.
Creators also fear that their AMP-based content will eventually start to look the same as other branded pieces, as AMP regulations essentially force users to structure their content and web pages in a way that Google’s algorithm approves of.
Finally, there is the difficulty of being able to track just how well your AMP pages are doing. Because they are tracked differently than other web pages, you’ll need to use an AMP version of Google Analytics’ tracking code on all of your mobile pages in order to get access to metrics.
Additionally, you’ll have to alert visitors that they are being tracked via the tracking code, how Google Analytics uses their data, and allow users the ability to opt-out of being tracked. This last element may upset a fair amount of SEO experts, since it creates the risk of losing potential precious data.
How can Businesses Use AMP to their Advantage
While the “cons” of AMP may discourage some from using it, the overall benefits are still worthwhile. If you think your business is ready to jump in, here are a few tips on how to get started:
Focus on creating high-quality content, such as informative blog posts that answer commonly asked questions in your industry, and optimize those pages to be AMP-friendly. These pages could either be automatically setup to be AMP friendly via settings in your content management system (i.e. HubSpot), thorough a downloadable plugin (if created on WordPress), or by following the directions mentioned on the AMP website.
If possible, try to incorporate the “news article” look that most people associate AMP pages with: a “breaking news” kind of title, capitalizing the first letter of every word (which also helps make the title easier to read), and using a compelling hero image in order to entice additional clicks.
If you're active on social media platforms like Twitter, ensure that you are linking your followers to an AMP version of your webpage to provide a richer social experience. You can also include additional code within your AMP webpage that will create a Twitter Card when someone tweets the URL on their account. This can help add items like images related to your webpage to the tweet, which could potentially help improve click-through rates.
Where Does it Fit into a Content Based Marketing Plan
While improving page loading speeds and increasing web traffic would persuade most content marketers to think about using AMP for their next marketing plan, there are additional ways that AMP can help make your content marketing stand out.
One example that’s worth highlighting is AMP Stories, which are custom AMP pages that provide a rich and lively visual experience that fill the entire screen of a visitor’s mobile device, all while still providing a fast and fluid experience. These stories can also be made interactive for visitors, allowing for a more personal experience with your content and ultimately granting you endless possibilities of how you want your story to be told.
Not only do these stories work on mobile devices, they’re also fully accessible on desktop screens as well, allowing for both types of users to share the same experience no matter how they access it. These AMP pages, while looking as though they belong on such social media platforms as Instagram, don’t even need to be tied to any form of social media: they are, in the end, their own web pages that can be indexed by Google and found within Google search results.
It’s also worth considering the use of what AMP calls “Live Blogs”, which are pages that are continuously updated with new content based off of specific events that are occurring outside of the page.
These kinds of blogs are especially beneficial to have when there is a live event occurring (such as conferences, elections, ceremonies, and sporting events) — they help keep visitors interested and engaged with your page as updates continue to pour in. Not only this, but keeping viewers interested in the constant updates can also help keep them on your blog page longer, which can ultimately help increase its ranking in search results as time goes on.
You can also limit the number of new updates that appear on your page in order to prevent it from becoming too long, through techniques like removing older items or moving them to a second page of the blog. Such technology websites like Gizmodo and TechCrunch use these kind of AMP pages not only to have a livestream of new blog content for viewers, but also to keep visitors up to date when covering specific technology-related events such as Apple and Google Conferences.
In summary, AMP can be a beneficial tool for your team to use in order to help deliver your online content to mobile users within a fast and easy-to-access format. Remember that you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to use AMP: so long as you follow the guidelines and use the tips mentioned above, you’ll be well on your way to creating lightning-fast and eye-catching content in no time.