Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a project focusing on fast content delivery on mobile devices. It’s an open source project introduced by Google as an answer to Facebook’s Instant Articles and its importance grows quickly. Even though the AMP project turns 2 years in 2017, there’s still a lot of confusion around it.
If you’re one of those, trying to figure what exactly AMP is and what the implications of (not)enabling it are, this post will give you the answers you’ve been looking for.
What Is AMP?
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a two-fold concept, focusing on the creation and fast delivery of light-weight content world-wide. On publishers’ side, all that’s needed in order to become a part of the project, is to install the official AMP plugin.
Once this is done and the plugin is activated, AMP-copies of your posts – and soon also pages, are created. In practice, this means that you end up with two versions of the very same post, the original and the AMP one. The original is tagged as the canonical version of the post but is not affected or optimized in any other way, as for example to load faster.
Once Google detects AMP pages on your website, they get cached and populated onto Google’s CDN. The cached AMP pages are then served directly from Google’s cache on mobile. In search, they appear above the corresponding non-AMP results and, in some cases, in AMP-specific features as top stories carrousel.
AMP content can exist as paired or as stand-alone. Paired means that there’s a non-AMP version of your content that is tagged as canonical. Stand-alone means that only an AMP copy exists and it refers to itself as canonical.
One thing that might shock you in the beginning, is that AMP content isn’t served from your domain but from Google’s. Thus, pages can end up with a URL like this: cache.Google.com/yourdomain/yourpost.
AMP Basics And Implementation
AMP works by stripping down posts pages according to a number of strict optimization rules that are supposed to help content load up to 4 times faster. Those are, however, no magic beans speeding up your website at no cost. You don’t get to keep the design you’ve been working on and the functionality you’ve deemed necessary.
Even though I suppose that at some point in the future we’ll see WordPress themes with integrated AMP, for now the only way to get it is to code yourself or use plugins.
The official plugin is called AMP. It’s designed by the people behind the project and is your best shot for compatibility with WordPress. It makes everything very easy as you only need to install and activate it. There’re no complicated settings at all. Of course, this is not only a good thing (see the section about downsides below).
The plugin dynamically generates AMP versions of your posts and you can access those by appending /amp/ at the end of your posts’ URLs. What you should be aware of, is that pages and categories aren’t yet supported. Page support is, though, underway.
So, simply explained, your site gets an AMP version of each existing post. The original post is, though, not deleted. Thus, you end up with a “normal” and mobile accelerated page featuring the same content. This could, in theory, cause a SEO problem with duplicate content.
It’s important to note that there’re strict requirements for structured data on your website in order to be able to implement AMP correctly. You can review and test your pages for errors in Google Search Console by clicking on Search Appearance->Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Correct linking and references are also a must in order to make your AMP content discoverable for search engines.
What you should be aware of, is that you have no control over settings and meta data for the AMP content out of the box. If you want to make sure your pages are optimized, you have to use additional plugins. Yoast offers a solution to this problem by introducing Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP that makes it easy for users to optimize AMP directly from within Yoast SEO.
Another thing you must know, is that a lot of users experience problems and glitches, when implementing AMP on their sites. Incompatibility, missing tags, undiscoverable pages, non-conformable pages, etc. make life difficult for webmasters and endanger SEO scores by filling healthy websites with errors.
This is probably why Google stepped up and offers now a tool that can help you test your AMP content for errors. You can find more information about it and a link to the tool on Google webmasters’ blog.
Benefits And Downsides Of AMP
If you’re considering to implement AMP on your site, you should be aware of all the benefits and downsides of it.
The benefits are easy to spot: fast page loading, lower bounce rates due to higher speed, and possibly more visibility on mobile devices via AMP-specific features.
Downsides might be more difficult to understand. Here’re the most important of them:
- AMP content isn’t served from your domain. This has great implications for branding, especially of young brands.
- There’s not enough information about how serving content directly from the cache affects your site’s stats but SEO consultant Christian Oliveira warns about series of problems.
- The AMP project is great for the big publishers but its effect on small-scale publishers and bloggers is yet to be researched. Main concerns are losses in terms of traffic, retention of site users, conversions, brand awareness, and advertising dollars.
- Even though the AMP project is made to support major ad networks, there’s no guarantee that the one you’re using is supported. Neither is there a guarantee that custom ad banners will be shown on your pages.
- AMP plugin is for now only supporting blog posts and, even though support of pages is underway, the limitations in terms of design and functionality set a question mark to the usability of the concept for e-commerce or interactive sites. For now, AMP works best for delivering blog posts.
- Installing the AMP plugin can slow down your pages with up to a second (test it with a tool as Pingdom). Keep in mind that slow pages result in lower SEO rank. You can also stumble upon a variety of other issues as reported by users.
- So far, there’s no solution giving you control over your AMP content out of the box. This means that you can’t edit the way the page looks or the available options on it. Additionally, you cannot edit meta data, which leaves the pages with the same meta data as the canonical ones.
Should I Implement AMP On My Site?
First and foremost, you should understand that this isn’t a first priority task. Simply because the adoption of AMP among webmasters is still pretty low (23 % according to a survey carried out by Link Assistant). For you this means that there’s time to evaluate, research, and possibly wait out the launch period, which often is marked by many issues, too few solutions, and general instability.
Link Assistant concludes their research of AMP with a recommendation to become a first mover and hope for a big boost in traffic but you must know that AMP is not a ranking factor. Google has explained many times now that there’re no plans of treating the presence of AMP as a ranking factor. The only boost in traffic can therefore come from additional visibility. Even though there’s the promise for more visibility, there’s no guarantee that your pages will be featured at all.
It’s therefore a good idea to consider, whether it’s worth it to add a second or so to page loading times by installing AMP plugins. While you don’t know, how the availability of AMP content will affect your web traffic, it’s a known fact that slow loading times are the number one bounce factor. It’s also a known fact that page speed is a ranking factor. Thus,
Another very important point is that implementing AMP on business websites can exterminate content marketing by separating blog content from the rest of the website. As long as you use your blog posts to attract site visitors, you are advised to keep away from AMP.