All About AMPs: A Major Trend for 2017

all-about-amps

All About AMPs: A Major Trend for 2017

Overview

Google announced its AMP Project in October of 2015, and AMP listings started appearing in mobile search results in early 2016. Since then web publishers and content creators have increasingly adopted AMPs to improve mobile user experience. As of September 2016, there are 600 million AMP-enabled documents on the web. Currently they’re recognized by a small grey lightning bolt symbol next to the letters AMP in mobile search results. The example to the right shows AMP results for the query “black Friday 2016”.
amp

What is an AMP?

AMP is an acronym for “Accelerated Mobile Page”. AMPs are an accessible, open source framework designed by Google for creating fast-loading mobile web pages. Essentially they are a “light” version of HTML, and this creates fast-loading, easy-to-read pages on your phone. The AMP project was created by Google but it remains an open source project, meaning the source code/framework is freely available and may be redistributed and modified by all website developers. AMP can be integrated with other platforms and CMS’s, including Microsoft Bing, Nuzzel, WordPress, Pinterest and Twitter.

According to Google, the AMP framework is easy to implement and is made up of AMP HTML, AMP JavaScript (JS), and AMP Cache. These pieces all contribute to faster load times. Elements such as Form tags in HTML and most facets of JavaScript aren’t included because they slow down page speed, and the whole thing is heavily cached so that the content is hosted directly on the page and doesn’t have to be fetched from elsewhere. For more on the technical side of AMPs and to view the code, visit the official technical site here.

Why Were AMPs Created?

80% of people today use a smartphone, according to data from US device users ages 18-49, and 40% of people search exclusively on a smartphone daily. Slow loading webpages, content that shifts around, videos that take up the whole screen, and other small annoyances are all too common, and can be enough to drive a user away from a mobile site. Google created the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to help developers build web pages for static content that can render quickly to improve user experience in a mobile-oriented world. The three main problems the AMP Project aims to solve are:

1)  Slow-loading pages

2)  Non-responsive scrolling

3)  Content that shifts around on the page

When a user clicks on an AMP link in the SERPs, the page opens instantly and displays the content in static form. It’s these elements that make AMP a useful tool for increasing retention rate on mobile and reducing bounce rate on websites. High bounce rate can cause negative SEO for a website.

When to Use AMPs

Creating AMPs on your site means creating and maintaining two versions of your pages, but Google states that the framework is easy-to-use, and is worth it in terms of mobile-friendliness. Other CMS’s, like WordPress, offer AMP plugins that generate AMP-compatible versions of your URLs to make management easier. If you have a large site with a high number of pages and multiple subdomains, it’s more practical to develop a plan when it comes to creating AMPs rather than creating an AMP-enabled version for every page on your site. When choosing when to create an AMPs, it’s important to think about the type of content. Since AMPs are all about speed and readability, the framework works best with text-heavy content. In fact, the first group to employ AMPs were news publishers, and originally AMPs only appeared in the Top Stories section of the SERPs. In the year that AMPs have existed, they’ve expanded their reach to be adopted by all types of website publishers and developers, and they now appear in the main mobile search results.

AMP pages should be created for articles, blog posts, or other pages that have large amounts of text. Remember, you don’t have to create an AMP version of every page of your site. Elements on the page such as contact or lead forms and on-page comments aren’t supported, and images don’t load until they’re scrolled into view, which means creating AMPs is less beneficial for multi-media heavy pages. Pages YouTube videos can be created as an AMP, but it requires additional custom tags and extended components. The goal of the official AMP Project is to have all types of content be hosted on Accelerated Mobile Pages, but beginning with your company blog or articles section is a good start.

AMPs and Ecommerce

Although AMPs were originally used for blogs and news publications, Google announced at the end of August 2016 that they can be used for e-commerce pages as well. Since AMPs improve page load speeds, employing them on ecommerce sites will likely increase purchase conversion rates and overall user experience, arguably two of the most important factors for ecommerce companies. In the on-going effort of improving customer experience online, AMPs seek to limit the headaches of complicated page layouts and slow-loading product images. Large online retailers such as eBay are working with Google to test new tracking features for AMPs, as well as creating their own series of AMP pages. The implementation of AMPs is still in the “early adopters” phase in the e-commerce world, but industry experts predict that they will become an industry standard over time.

To learn how to set up an AMP page on an e-commerce site step-by-step, visit Google’s resource here.

AMPs and Analytics

Accelerated Mobile Pages can be tracked in Google Analytics with a special tag. Since AMPs are built differently than standard web pages, you can’t use the Universal Analytics analytics.js JavaScript Library to utilize tracking. Instead, you use an “amp-analytics” custom element.

It’s best practice to set up a separate property under your account in Google Analytics for AMP measurement. Doing this allows you to easily separate AMP page traffic from regular mobile traffic, and allows you to gain a better understanding of user behavior on AMPs.

Setting up analytics tracking for AMPs is similar to the process for standard web pages, it simply involves a different snippet of code. To place the AMP tag on your mobile page, the amp-analytics tag should be pasted in the <head> before the AMP JS Library. To view the code and follow the process, see the Google developers site here. After setting up tracking, make sure your analytics are calculating visits rather than pre-renders. Visit the Page Visibility API to test this.

Analytics for AMPs currently has limited capabilities compared to standard Analytics, but Google maintains that new capabilities will be added over time. Currently it allows you to track:

  • Page data: Domain, path, page title
  • User data: client ID, timezone
  • Browsing data: referrer, unique page view ID
  • Browser data: screen height, screen width, user agent
  • Interaction data: page height and page width
  • Event data

AMPs can also be tracked and reviewed in Google Search Console. Under the Search Appearance header, you will find the Accelerated Mobile Pages section. There you can use the AMP Validation Report to see errors across your site, both for structured data and AMP validation.

What’s Next for AMP?

As more users become familiar with Accelerated Mobile Pages, the rate at which they click on AMPs vs. standard mobile pages will widen. It’s predicted that as searchers begin to recognize and seek out AMP results, sites will see an increase in clickthrough rates to their AMP-enabled pages on mobile. Google and its partners in the project will continue to make changes to AMP that better enables the framework to handle elements such as tracking, ads, and more. In August of 2016 AMP began supporting A/B testing and other testable features, signaling that the project was going strong and that new features will continue to be added to the AMP framework. Google is also working on a “Live Coverage” AMP carousel for breaking news, sports, and other real-time events, that would dominate a section of the mobile SERP.

AMP is not yet a ranking factor, but some publishers believe it to be an indirect one. Already Google’s algorithm knows to prioritize the AMP version of a page over the standard version in the SERPs. As mobile continues to grow in its significance, it is highly likely that AMPs or some facet of them will become a ranking factor in the future.

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