If you work on the web in any capacity, or are even just a user of the web, it’s likely you’ve been acquainted with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). They’re in Google’s search results, they’re in your Twitter feed, they’re being written about in tech blogs.
Unless you’re an avid follower of tech news it’s possible you don’t know what they are, why they’re suddenly all over the web, or how to apply the technology to your own website. This article will explain all of that.
In this post we’ll take you back a few years to the origins of AMP, then fast forward and get you up to date with what you need to know today. In the end we trust you’ll have a thorough understanding of AMP, and the resources you may need for finding further information.
What is AMP?
AMP is an initiative championed by Google based on the idea that the mobile web should be faster. According to Google, mobile visitors start leaving a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. AMP was designed to help make instantly loading web pages a reality for more web publishers.
Google defines AMP as:
“an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.”
How Does AMP Work?
How is it possible to load web pages so fast? AMP makes it possible in a couple of different ways. One of the most noticeable ways is how it limits developers to only use simplified coding. It also doesn’t permit the use of Java. You’ll notice when you land on an AMP page it looks like a stripped down version of a regular page.
AMP pages can be designed by manually coding them according to a strict set of requirements. Another way they can be designed is through using templates or WordPress plugins. After designing an AMP page, you can ensure it meets requirements using this testing tool.
Another reason why AMP pages load so fast is because they’re hosted on a separate server from the publisher’s original server. Where a web page is hosted can affect load times dramatically, so being able to control where AMP pages are hosted can ensure fast loading.
What are the Benefits of Using AMP Pages?
AMP pages are designed to primarily benefit the end-user, but there are also benefits for publishers. By providing a faster mobile web experience for visitors, publishers may see favorable changes to metrics like bounce rate, time on site, and pages per session. This could lead to more conversions, more sales, and so on.
Google has explicitly stated AMP is not a ranking factor, but there are other search benefits to consider. AMP technology increases mobile friendliness and page speed, which are ranking factors. AMP pages also ranks favorably in Google’s news carousel, and stands out in search results with a distinctive AMP icon.
However, AMP is far from perfect. Improvements have been made over time, but there are still limitations.
Limitations of AMP Pages
For some website owners, AMP pages are too stripped down for their own good. A reason why some publishers haven’t adopted AMP technology yet is because of the limitations that still exist.
For a long time after first being introduced, AMP pages didn’t even support conversion forms. Support for conversion forms has since been added after popular demand, but that’s an example of one of the hurdles AMP had to overcome.
One of the greatest limitations holding publishers back today has to do with ads. The stripped down nature of AMP pages allows for fewer ads, which can hurt revenue. Google has been working on finding a balance between pleasing publishers without affecting user experience.
News About AMP
Now that you’re familiar with the background of AMP, let’s take a look back at some of the major news stories concerning AMP. From its introduction in 2015 until now.
Google First Announces the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project
Google first introduced AMP to the world back in October 2015:
“We want webpages with rich content like video, animations and graphics to work alongside smart ads, and to load instantaneously.”
At the time only 30 publishers were on board, which pales in comparison to the amount of publishers on board today.
AMP Pages Get Surfaced in Google Search
In late February 2016, four months after AMP pages were initially introduced, Google began to surface them in search results. They were surfaced, and still continue to be surfaced, in the form of a “Top Stories” carousel at the very top of Google’s search results pages.
Google Clears the Air: AMP is Not a Ranking Factor
Just days after rolling out AMP pages in search results, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller had to explain that AMP is not a ranking factor. The company has not changed its position on AMP as a ranking a factor since making that statement in February 2016.
AMP Comes to Google News
In April 2016, Google announced it would start to surface AMP content in Google News and highlight it with the familiar lightning bolt most of us probably recognize today.
AMP for Ads and Landing Pages
In July 2016, Google addressed one of AMP’s greatest limitations when it announced AMP for ads and landing pages. This technology would start to allow ads and landing pages to load as instantly as the other content on AMP pages.
AMP Pages Indexed in Google’s Organic Search Results
AMP pages finally made their way to prime time in September 2016, when Google started indexing them in the regular set of organic search results. This created a lot more exposure for AMP content and started to encourage more publishers to come on board.
Google Introduces the AMP Testing Tool
In an effort to help developers and site owners create error-free AMP pages, Google rolled out a testing tool in October 2016. It’s similar to Google’s PageSpeed testing tool. You simply submit a URL, Google will analyze the page and tell you whether it’s valid or invalid. If it’s invalid, the tool will explain how to fix the errors.
AMP Pages Start Supporting Conversion Forms
Another limitation of AMP pages was addressed in November 2016 when it was announced conversion forms could now be embedded in AMP pages. This was a fairly significant development since a lot of websites capture lead data via conversion forms.
Fast Forward to 2017
A fury of new developments for AMP were rolled out throughout 2016, so let’s look ahead to where that brings us today. AMP is still less than two years old. On its one year anniversary, in October 2016, it was announced there were 600 million AMP pages across 700,000 domains.
Most recently, Google announced in May 2017 that there are over 2 billion AMP pages on the web across 900,000 domains. That’s a considerable increase in adoption in just 6 months.
It was also announced in May 2017 that AMP pages have started to load twice as fast when landed on from Google Search. This could potentially encourage even more publishers to come on board.
Another thing which may appease publishers is Google’s new AMP ads, announced in May 2017 as well. These are brand new ad units designed specifically for AMP pages. The new designs have the potential to draw more clicks than the ads publishers were previously limited to using.
Now you know all the vital information about AMP, and you’re caught up with the latest news. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to adopt AMP technology for your content, think about whether or not it makes sense for your website’s goals. For example, if your website thrives on ad revenue, you may be taking a risk by creating AMP versions of your pages.
The writing on the wall says AMP has momentum and it’s not going away anytime soon. Google’s gamble seems to be paying off thus far. We’ll see what the future brings for the still-fledgling web technology.