In October 2015, Google released plans for its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative that would work towards creating an efficient mobile environment for business owners who crave more impressions. According to Google’s AMP website, the project takes aim at improving the speed in which websites and content load and how well they perform across all types of distribution avenues. Publishers are particularly prone to using AMP, as the speed of their servers is key for making sure their users stay on the site. In fact, most websites that utilize AMP are publishers of articles and content that rely on ranking features to be viewed.

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Since its inception, Google’s AMP, which can be identified by the “AMP” icon on search results and social posts, is constantly being improved with new design layouts, collaborative elements with Google Analytics and the launch of the AMP Ads Initiative, which worked towards bringing the efficiency of AMP to advertising. In May, even Facebook decided to support Google’s AMP, in lieu of creating their own instant article format.

Three key components that make up AMP

  1. AMP HTML, which is essentially HTML with a few customized elements that enable companies to use common templates.
  2. AMP JS, which allows for fast rendering of AMP HTML Pages.
  3. AMP Cache, which stores all AMP HTML pages and automatically improves their page performance.

AMP leads to increased views through Google’s AMP carousel, increased mobile rankings, a better user experience, a higher click-through-rate, and improved ad-performance, all of which are important success metrics for a website’s SEO.

SEO and the AMP carousel

Google’s AMP carousel sits right on top of organic results for news, recipe and product searches, therefore taking clicks away from sites not optimized with AMP. In fact, when the carousel first came into play, websites were not required to use AMP to be featured. However, the non-AMP sites would be placed near the back of the carousel. Now, more and more sites are rolling out AMP sites in an attempt to muster their way to the front of the pack.

Think of the carousel as a prestigious fraternity. If you want the honor of being named a member, you must put in the hard work of revamping your sites with AMP. Otherwise, you risk losing impressions.

For paid search, AMP will allow for faster-loading pages, which will once again lead to more page views and therefore more exposure to ads. Overall, publishers who use AMP see higher Click Through Rates for mobile sites, which is essential when considering just how often mobile searches are performed. 

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A quick Google search of "Penguins" shows Google's AMP carousel listing 10 AMP results at the top of the page.

More smartphones, more searches

Smart phones have reinvented where, how and when we get our information. Whether we are at home or on the go and need to know movie times or make restaurant reservations, your smartphone is always there for you. Per a Hitwise report in 2016, over half of global online search queries come from mobile phones, as opposed to tablets, laptops and desktops. The report further concluded that the U.S. makes up 58 percent of the overall mobile searches. “Google” is no longer just the name of the world’s most successful tech companies, but it is also a commonly used verb. (Example: “Hey, do penguins have knees?” “hmm… I don’t know, I’ll google it.”)

There are some people out there that complain about how we tend to spend too much time on our phones. But how can you not? Our smartphones allow us to possess an abundance of information at our fingertips. We can stay up to date on the latest news from around the world, as well as find simple solutions to otherwise troublesome problems. Like when you can’t remember the name of that one actor who was in that one movie about that one thing (hint: the answer is almost always George Clooney or Matt Damon).

In the U.S. alone, 77 percent of people own a smart phone, a 42 percent increase since 2011, this according to a Pew Research study. Ninety-two percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 own a smart phone as well, meaning that as the years go on, the overall percent will continue to go up.

With the increase in smartphone users and mobile searches, publishers must make sure that their sites are adept for handling this much traffic.

The importance of mobile website speed

David Merrell, Senior Product Manager at The Washington Post explains the importance of efficient mobile content, “If our site takes a long time to load, it doesn’t matter how great our journalism is, some people will leave the page before they see what’s there.”

I can probably speak for most people in saying that my patience runs thin when it comes to my phone. Despite the intricacies that go into making our phones one tiny step down from being omniscient, we still expect our devices to work flawlessly and without any complications whatsoever.

Per a study by Radware, if a website’s visitor must wait three or more seconds for the content to load, they are extremely likely to leave the site. This is reminiscent of a Louis C.K. joke in which he points out the unrealistic expectations that airlines must endure. It isn’t enough that airlines have created the miracle of flight with a 70-ton metal machine, they must also do it without delays and other inconveniences. The same can be said for people’s expectations with phones. Even as websites load faster and faster; it will never be enough. Smart phone users demand instant gratification and perfection. In fact, there is data to back this up.

It’s good to know I’m not the only one with the attention span of a goldfish.

In terms of shopping, mobile users are the pickiest when it comes to load time and efficiency of a website. Akamai employed a study, as reported by SureDigital, that found 73 percent of those who shop with their phones claim that most of the sites were too slow to load. Once again, after roughly four seconds, these shoppers will abandon the page and look elsewhere for their products.   

To increase the number of repeat visitors, a decrease in load time is useful. A user is not likely to forget a frustrating and slow experience with a website (I’m looking at you, ESPN).

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Andy Wolberg of Tech Republic put his website through the Pingdom Website Speed Test, first as a regular mobile site, then when he backed it with AMP.

What’s the holdup?

If implemented correctly, AMP can be a solid means of driving mobile traffic by placing AMP-backed sites atop search result pages, as well as on Google’s AMP carousel. However, one major roadblock in the execution of AMP is the complexity of the process. Damon Kiesow, head of mobile initiatives at McClatchy, a publishing company, sums up the process, stating, “Everything we know about building webpage we have to relearn. But we’re relearning it from the premise of converting a current product over, not creating a product from scratch.

Because of the framework dictated by Google, AMP is a drastically different approach to building a website when compared to what most companies are currently employing. For instance, AMP doesn’t allow many dynamic elements that slow down loading time which could potentially mean that SEO departments may have to lose familiar aspects of their websites, such as comment systems and lead capture forms. The unfamiliar aspect of AMP may appear daunting at first, but like any other new software or program introduced to a company, it takes time to fully integrate.           

Success stories 

Publishers like the Washington Post, Wired and Gizmodo have all embraced the AMP Project and have seen an improvement in their mobile traffic. Within the first seven days of adopting AMP, the Washington Post saw an increase in 23 percent of mobile users and an 88 percent improvement in its load time for its mobile site.

Because AMP is not a template-based site, AMP allows publishers to increase users and decrease load times without taking away their ability to customize the site.

“We are able to host our content style as we see fit, and easily integrate our existing advertising, analytics and other business tools,” continues The Post’s Merrell.

Wired Magazine’s mobile website has also seen an increase in users, with a 35 percent increase in click-through rates from search results and a 63 percent increase in click-through rates on ads in AMP stories. Gizmodo now has three times faster page loading times and a 50 percent increase in page impressions since switching to the AMP format.

These results speak for themselves and Google’s AMP, as the project continues to expand across companies.

With more and more companies opting joining in on this trend, will you be the next to implement AMP to your mobile site?  

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