As with any Google update or algorithm development, there’s plenty for marketers to consider, but fear not! The points below should provide enough for you to know whether Google AMP is something you need to be including in your digital strategy.

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So, first thing’s first. What the chuff is Google AMP?

For a while now, Google have been emphasising the importance of optimising content for mobiles, and it’s finally started to have an impact on rankings. In an age where customers expect to be able to access information at their fingertips, it’s vital for sites to adapt to give users a better experience.

In a nutshell, Accelerated Mobile Pages are stripped-down web pages that are designed to load instantaneously, so you’ll no longer lose precious readers as they wait for your content to load.

Google teamed up with a number of publishers and technology companies to design the AMP framework to push page speed to the fastest level possible so that users could access content much quicker, whilst at the same time keeping the content looking good for users.

When Google AMP was rolled out in February 2016, this only applied to static content such as news articles which featured in a ‘Top Stories’ carousel at the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). This sought-after position has played host to the likes of The Guardian, The Huffington Post, WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

However, AMP has since reached the main organic mobile results, as of August, presenting a world of opportunity for many sites beyond publishing, including e-commerce.

How does AMP work?

AMP works by introducing two versions of a chosen page to your site: an original version, and an AMP version.

The AMP version is a stripped down variant of the original page which has been specially designed to load as speedily as possible, so your readers can click and start consuming your content straight away.

Google have laid out strict guidelines as to how these AMP pages need to be constructed, so you’ll need to ask your developers to create your pages to their specifications and use the AMP Validator tool to test!

You won’t need to AMP your whole site in one go; it’s better to choose portions of the site where it may be the most effective. That might be pages with long descriptions, images or reviews, depending on where users will find the most value.

Once your AMP page has been created, it can be hosted on your site with a rel=canonical tag pointing to the original page, to eliminate any problems with duplication. Assuming your page is set up correctly, it will be picked up by Google and presented to the mobile user in the SERP with a lightning bolt symbol to indicate that it is an AMP page.  This also presents potential to feature in the ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Headlines’ carousels at the top of the Google results page – which will boost the chances of your content being read should your pages be relevant to trending topics.

One major caveat is that AMP pages are cached by Google, so there’s a chance that visitors may never actually reach your site, however, you can place links within the pages that may lead them to your site directly.

Be sure to choose the pages you ‘AMP up’ wisely as they may be the first experience a user has with your site. You’ll want to give them useful content that will provide a return on attention and in the case of e-commerce, make them more likely to convert.

Why implement Google AMP?

The implementation of AMP is all about increasing site speed, but its potential benefits go much further than that. Below we’ve outlined some of the positive benefits of implementing AMP on your site and how it allows users to interact and engage more effectively with your content.

Improved user experience

Not only does increased site speed mean that you’re less likely to lose readers through slow-loading content, it also helps to increase engagement levels and make your site appear more authoritative, trustworthy and worth a return visit.

User experience is key, so if you can meet user needs with useful, super speedy content, you’ve got the beginnings of a winning formula to keep them coming back!

Potential for improved rankings

Whilst Google AMP is not a ranking factor (yet!), it does affect clicks, impressions and overall user experience, all of which subsequently have an impact on SEO. Pages which are featured in the new AMP carousels can also benefit from a privileged position to catch users’ attention.

Google’s announcement of Mobilegeddon last year made mobile-friendliness an officially recognised ranking factor and websites that do not conform are threatened with a negative impact to their mobile search results. Ergo, this does not rule out the possible favour of AMP implementation later down the line.

Increased readership

Implementing AMP could help you reach a whole new audience, who will find your content to be more useful for their needs. As well as long-term readers who come back to your site time and time again, and occasional visitors who find your posts via social media, you could be attracting users who’ve made relevant searches through Google and found your page on the AMP carousel or further up the mobile search results.

Flexible implementation

Google AMP can be used with any publisher, and a WordPress Plugin already exists, making it fairly flexible for implementation across a variety of platforms. There’s also potential in the future for it to be improved and developed with extended components, such as featuring and formatting options to allow you to customise how it’s used for your needs.

What are the potential problems?

Despite the various benefits, it’s important to understand that there are limitations to what is currently possible with AMP, and that development time and resource will be required.

For this reason you’ll need to consider whether AMP is the right step for your site, and whether it’s best possible investment of your digital budget.

  • AMP’s limited instruction sets mean that it cannot be used with external style sheets or JavaScript; this could be a problem for pages with specially designed ads.
  • More complex interactions such as purchase flows via an AMP page are not yet possible although directing users to your site via link to complete a purchase is a quicker and useful alternative.
  • There is no way to incorporate forms into AMP, contact or otherwise, which could hinder pages with subscription boxes or submission form goals.
  • Pages must be free from errors before being picked up by AMP. Whilst this is also a positive of the project, especially for users, this could have a financial impact for site owners who may need to set budget aside to rid pages of bugs. Keep a close eye on Google Search Console for errors!

With the above issues taken into account, it’s also important to consider the potential risks of not implementing Google AMP.

Do you really want to be left behind?

How to set up AMP

Now that you have a good idea of what AMP is, as well as its potential benefits and pitfalls, how can you go about implementing AMP on your site?

If your site uses WordPress then it’s relatively simple. Use the WordPress AMP plugin to give your site the base AMP functionality, then the Glue for Yoast SEO and AMP plugin to ensure you can keep using the optimal metadata for SEO. The Glue for Yoast plugin also lets you modify your AMP page design, which is sure to come in very handy. Don’t forget to add tracking to your AMP pages so you can measure their performance – the MonsterInsights plugin supports AMP tracking.

If your site is not using WordPress, AMP implementation becomes more difficult and is likely to be a conversation you will need to have with your developers. Before you rush to pick up the phone, here are the key points you need to know in order to be clued up about the whole process:

  • For each piece of content you want to be available via AMP, you will need two versions of the page: an original version that visitors to your site will typically see, as well as the AMP version. This is because AMP doesn’t permit certain HTML tags such as forms or JavaScript to be included, so these elements will be stripped from your page in the AMP version.

Here is an example from the Silverbean website:

  • A variety of AMP tags can be used to help shape the functionality of your AMP pages, including specialist tags for videos, audio content and interactive elements. For an idea of what’s available, take a look at this list.
  • It’s also important to note that for styling purposes, you’ll need to use a streamlined version of CSS, ensuring it is under 50KB and is all inline. Any custom fonts will also need to be loaded with a specific amp-font extension to better control the loading time.
  • To allow Google to detect the AMP version of your page, you’ll need to include the following tag on the original version, for example: <link rel=”amphtml” href=”http://www.silverbean.com/blog/mobile-marketing-travel-brands/”>
  • You will also have to make sure your Schema.org structured data is on point if you want your content to bag that all-important top spot in the AMP carousels. For more details, see the guidance from Google about the mark-up required. If you want to check up on this, the Google Structured Data Testing Tool now includes a filter for AMP articles which provides recommendation for non-compliant markup.
  • Finally, Google Analytics is already set up to support tracking AMP pages. Simply define which actions should trigger events and hits within the configuration section and watch the magic happen.

Future of AMP

If you’re wondering whether this is another fly-by-night marketing tactic, or something that as a savvy marketer you should really be prioritising, this next bit’s for you.

Websites tend to be set up with functionality and aesthetics in mind, but there is often little consideration for speed. You could spend all of your available time and resource making a site look good, but if it doesn’t load quickly enough, users won’t hang around to see it.

AMP is a new solution to the changing culture and approach to web development, with great potential for inspiring bigger changes to improve the user experience.

We believe there are two distinct possibilities for the future of Google AMP:

  1. AMP will eventually become as complex as “unrestricted” HTML and allow webmasters to develop AMP websites with untapped function and design, thus creating an indirect culture of speed-conscious web development (yes please).
  2. It will be squashed in the face of advances in mobile hardware, browser capacity and broadband speeds, and thus become a solution for a problem we no longer have. Rather than solving a known problem, the issue will be reverted and the life cycle repeated afresh with better tools.

Either way, there are going to be some exciting developments surrounding AMP and Google has already laid out its plans and roadmap, so you can see exactly what they have planned for accelerated mobile pages.

Frequently asked questions

What sort of impact could I get from implementing AMP?

The main benefit that AMP provides is giving your content the chance to be accessed more quickly, meeting the demands of user search. If your piece of content is selected to appear in the ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Headlines’ carousels, then it gets a speedy ticket to the top of the search results, where lots of new readers are likely to see it. Since AMP pages are hosted by Google, these readers won’t initially be visiting your site, but if readers like what they see then there’s a good likelihood that they’ll want to find out more about what you have to offer.

It’s difficult to say at this point how big an impact AMP could have, but with many top content publishers and brands already on board, we’d recommend considering it sooner rather than later.

How will AMP affect my content promotion strategy?

It’s likely that many of the readers you potentially reach through Google AMP could be people who haven’t heard of your brand before, and you’ll need to grab their attention with your content.

When you’re putting your content schedule together, it could be well worth considering these factors, and making sure your content is doing everything possible to win over your target audience. Think inspirational content with a broad appeal, and make it clear what makes your brand useful – so next time a reader thinks about a product or service, yours will be the most memorable.

Does this mean we should focus on AMP instead of mobile responsive pages?

No, it’s certainly not a case of doing one or the other! At the moment, there is no indication that all mobile traffic will be directed to AMP pages. If you decide to implement AMP, we’d recommend that two versions are created of each eligible page – a mobile friendly version and an AMP version – with the correct canonicalisation in place to safeguard against duplication.

Is AMP relevant for e-commerce?

As mentioned, AMP could only be used on static content originally, however, this has since changed to allow e-commerce pages and ads to appear quicker and be indexed in the mobile search results. Google report that a wide range of websites have now embraced AMP, including eBay, Disney, Food Network and many others.

Always think of your target customer and what their needs or interests might be in order to choose the right pages to implement AMP. To stand a chance of seeing the benefit, you’ll need to make sure your content is high quality, inspirational, useful and unique, as well as showing the reader what your brand stands for.

Marketers often exclaim that ‘content is king’, but let’s face it, the customer is king and if AMP is going to make their life easier, why wouldn’t you get involved?

This article was produced by members of our dedicated SEO team; Nicola Hall, Lucy Houlden and Martyn Addison.

If you have any questions about Google AMP or mobile search, please feel free to get in touch on Twitter @Silverbean or leave a comment below!