We’re only a few hours away from the official launch of Google AMP that promises to dramatically improve the performance of mobile web. The official launch date of the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages project is February 24th. While we’re waiting, I’m sure many search engine marketers, including myself, have many questions about what impact AMP will have on paid and organic search engine marketing.
In this article I’m going to take a closer look at what Google AMP means for Search Engine Marketers. So let’s get started.
- What is AMP?
- Why AMP was created?
- Delivery of Ads in AMP.
- Advantages of AMP for Search Engine Marketing.
What is AMP?
Much like myself, some of the marketing nerds are most definitely interested in finding out what any of that means in practice. Let’s take a quick look at AMP HTML and AMP JS in a little bit more detail. (I’m going to skip AMP CDN in this blog post, but here’s a link to help you learn more about AMP CDN.)
If you’re not interested in understanding the inner working of AMP please skip to the next section.
AMP HTML is an extended version of the standard HTML that introduces certain AMP-specific tags as well as a few restrictions to consistently deliver reliable performance over the mobile web. A complete list of AMP-specific tags are available of Github including everything you’ll need to build your first AMP HTML page.
Learn more about AMP HTML specifications
- Static rendering of images, ads or iframes by preprocessing the size of each element before downloading.
- Prioritise resource loading meaning that AMP prioritise loading only the content that the user will see first usually above-the-fold elements. The remaining elements are prefetched but faded only when they are actually shown to the user.
- All CSS is inline and size bound which removes 1 or more HTTP request to the server shaving at least 300ms from the loading time.
- Instant load times using reconnect API that prerenders the whole documents even before the user clicks on it and only downloads elements available above the fold.
I definitely think that it’s worth your time taking a deeper look into AMP JS optimisation and limitations, especially if you’re a marketing manager or an SEO.
Why AMP was created?
Do you remember how many times you’ve been frustrated because that one video, image or website that you wanted to check out on your way home in a crowded metro (subway) just wouldn’t load?! Aaarrgh! Rage quit!
Study after study has shown that a 40% of users simply abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Considering that most websites receive either close or over 50% of all online traffic from organic search slow load times are a bad mojo for online marketing. A recent comScore data shows that 29% of all organic traffic originates from mobile devices. Add up these figures and you’re looking at potentially bumming out a large number of people due to slow site load speed.
But wait! Now there's a solution.
AMP is specifically designed to improve mobile browsing experience and promises to deliver an easy to implement, easy to validate open web initiative that creates a faster mobile web while offering a string initiatives for publishers to adopt Accelerated Mobile Pages.
So far so good.
Now you know what AMP is, how it works and why it exists. It’s time to tally it’s many benefits and take a closer look at what it means for search engine marketers.
Advantages of AMP for Search Engine Marketing
How will AMP Impact Organic Search?
Yesterday Google announced that top 4 search results on a SERP will be paid listings pushing organic search results lower still. Add on top of it Google My Business listings (aka Local 4 Pack) for local search queries and the appearance of rich snippets for an increasing number of searches, and you're left looking at a shrinking real estate for traditional link based organic search results.
Before you loose al hope consider this. Traditional organic ranking factors still carry all the real weight but Mobilegedon, Penguin, Rich Snippets are all clues to how Google sees the role of organic search in the life of future search users. That's delivering better answers (or increasingly intent matching results) quicker.
Similar to the Mobile-Friendly tag, AMP pages will also occupy front row seats on SERP. Check out AMP SERP demo. This gives a clear advantage to the early adopters of AMP, especially content publishers. AMP is certainly going to give a boost to the CTR’s and even though AMP is not a ranking factor right now the increase in traffic is certainly a very attractive incentive.
What if you’re not a content publisher. Should you still decide to implement AMP?
In my opinion it really comes down to your industry vertical. If you and your competitors are active content publishers then perhaps experimenting with AMP won’t be such a bad idea. Besides, any initiative that improves the performance of your content for mobile users is a definite plus.
After today’s roll out Google will most likely experiment with AMP placement, so expect fluctuations in organic rankings in the coming weeks. AMP results are already live for certain queries on google.com. I am hopeful that we’ll see Finnish publishers experimenting with AMP very soon. How exciting!
How will AMP Impact Paid Search Engine Marketing?
One thing about AMP that has paid marketers worried is the confusion around ad delivery. Since AMP prioritises loading content before everything else, including ads, how can switching to AMP would possibly be a good idea if you’re a publisher? Not to mention that AMP currently doesn’t support pay walls which just happens to be a widely used business model by many online publishers.
Then again, let's not forget that AMP is an open source project and as such it will continually develop. Since online advertising is critical to online publishing I’ll be looking forward to unique solutions emerging from developers and publishers alike in the coming months.
For the time being Google believes that AMP can improve the loading time of web site anywhere between 15 - 85%. This is where things get really interesting. Quality content that loads faster is good news for improving Time on Site as well as engagement. I think you already know what I’m going to say next.
An engaged user is more likely to positively interact with everything that your site has to offer, including ads. The flip side of this is a site that has long load times and high bounce rates. It’s hard to argue with the fact that optimised mobile web is one of the major frontiers on online marketing today and a better mobile web ecosystem is in everyone’s favour.
Still, you don’t have to take my word for it.
A number of heavy weight publishers such as BuzzFeed, The Verge, Washington Post and Twitter have announced their support for AMP, including Wordpress which already supports AMP publishing, meaning no extra development required for you if your site is using their CMS.
AMP from its launch day supports major ad technologies including AdSense, DoubleClick and Outbrain. Plus it provides full control to publishers over ad placement and format. Some publishers are also hopeful that AMP may decrease the mass movement towards AdBlockers. Ads are largely to blame for the slower loading times, unnecessary interruptions and causing general mayhem eroding the quality of browsing the web.
With AMP, Google is hopeful that publishers will opt in for more favourable ad formats that cause minimal interruption in user experience and make the mobile web both publisher and user friendly. All of this might just be enough to to slow down the mass migration towards AdBlockers. (Fingers crossed)
What's the Next Step?
Finally we arrive at the most important section of this article. Any new development is Search Engine technology by default causes mass confusion. You can avoid being confused or letting someone else pull you on the band wagon to mass hysteria by knowing where to go from here.
In a nut shell, For me as an SEO, AMP is a great news because it removes guesswork out of mobile optimisation and improving site load speeds without compromising user experience. For paid marketers better user experience means more engagement with the site’s content including ads. But this is just the beginning, so my advice to all my fellow marketers is to arm yourself with knowledge and avoid guesswork.
I’ve created a list of necessary AMP resources to help you get up to speed with the latest revolution in mobile web technology. You're welcome!