Google’s AMP Project: What It Is, How It Will Affect You, and What to Do About It

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Website file size is increasing at an incredible rate. In 2012, the average page size was 1,239kB and made 86 requests to other resources. However, as of February 2016, the average web page file size is 2,268kB and makes more than 110 requests.

A graph showing the average file size per content type on a modern website

Of course, you could argue that’s not a problem because the connection speed is also increasing. And you’d be right – if you were only looking at desktop computers.

The situation on mobile devices is different: the dream of having a fast WiFi available anywhere you go still isn’t here. Cellular connections are still slow, and many smartphone users don’t have the 4G option available.

On the other hand, native apps are getting faster, and mobile devices are getting better and better with every new release. The point is, native environments are getting faster – while the mobile web is still slow.

Big Players to the Rescue

Online giants like Facebook and Apple have already realized the problem. That’s why Facebook has come up with Facebook Instant Articles. Apple also came up with its own solution, Apple News.

The goal of those efforts is simple: make the web feel like a native app, reducing lag and load times as much as possible.

And now, Google is also joining in with the AMP project.

AMP Explained

AMP (which stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a set of standards that enforces a templating system upon a publisher. It makes you build websites via a modified HTML framework, named AMP HTML. As a result, Google is able to preload the content and make its consumption a seamless experience for the mobile user.

AMP removes all the clutter from HTML, CSS and JavaScript: it reduces their usage to bare minimum, so the content could be displayed in the best possible way. The result is a page that’s stripped down from all the unnecessary effects and elements that increase page load time. The reader will only get text, images, videos and ads – combined with some simple, inline styling.

If you decide to implement AMP for your pages, you can expect up to 85% increase in page speed performance.

Google also preloads all the above-the-fold content on AMP-compliant websites, making your page load instantly for mobile users.

Here’s a working demo of how it works with the Guardian’s website. You can also view the AMP version of this article here : )

Google is displaying a small, green icon in the mobile search results, indicating that the site is AMP-compliant. As the users get used to the icon (and what it means to them) these pages will start getting a better click-through rate.

Once the visitor lands on your site, he’s presented with a blue bar at the top of the screen, enabling him to return to the Google SERPs. There’s no way for you as a site owner to remove that bar.

How Will AMP Affect the SEO Industry?

According to John Mueller (Gogole’s Webmaster Trends Analyst) AMP is not a ranking signal – yet. In fact, AMP can – right now – only be seen in the News results carousel.

The problem is, the AMP module will likely push down organic search results on mobile devices. This means that, if your competition is using AMP, and you’re not, you won’t lose an SEO battle against them, but you’ll lose impressions and clicks, just because the SERP has changed its layout.

If mobile ads were a problem for you, now you’ll have even more items between the top of the page and your organic results. Visitors will have to scroll down even further to find your page in the organic listings.

The 2015’s Mobilegeddon update was a clear sign that Google is not joking when it comes to site performance. The AMP project is just another attempt to enforce performance optimization practices down the publishers’ throats. That’s why there’s a good chance it’ll become a ranking factor in the near future. As always, they have to measure the adoption rate before they push those changes globally.

How Will AMP Affect the Online Advertising Industry?

Luckily, Adwords is Google’s golden cash cow, so you don’t have to worry about it too much. The company has said that the publisher will be able to choose from a wide variety of ad formats and placements, making it easy to publish ads on AMP pages as well.

The only potential problem will be the heavy and not-so-specific requirements for the advertisers. Their landing pages will have to be:

  1. Fast,
  2. Beautiful,
  3. Accessed via HTTPS

We still don’t know what “fast” or “beautiful” means, and it’s hard to believe that advertisers will want to switch to HTTPS because of the costs and implementation issues.

AMP for WordPress

Implementing AMP on WordPress is simple, thanks to the plugin by Automattic.

WordPress AMP plugin by Automattic

The only issue with the plugin is that if you’re not a developer, you won’t be able to do much customization on how your pages are going to look like. It’s not a big deal for smaller and medium-sized publishers, but if branding is something you strive for in the long run, you’ll have to hire a developer. We at CustomerBloom are happy to help as well : )

How the WordPress AMP Plugin Works

The plugin adds an AMP-compliant version of the page, and enables Google to access it via the [article_permalink]/amp/ permalink. After you’ve installed the plugin, simply check if it works by adding /amp/ at the end of your article’s URL.

The plugin also adds two implementation settings that make sure AMP doesn’t dilute any SEO juice:

  1. It adds a rel=”canonical” tag on the AMP version of the page – pointing it to the original, non-AMP version.
  2. It adds a rel=”amphtml” href=”AMP PAGE” tag to the original version, making it easier for Google to find the AMP version of the page.

2 Problems with Google Analytics and AMP

If you use Google Analytics, there are two problems that you’ll encounter:

  1. The AMP plugin strips out your current analytics code
  2. The analytics implementation on AMP pages is different than what you’re used to.

The solution to the first problem is to edit the single.php file of the plugin. You can put the GA code there. The issue is that you’ll have to do this repeatedly whenever the plugin updates. You can also install one of the many Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager plugins to fix this issue.

The second problem is that the implementation is different: it’s not about placing a small JavaScript snippet of code inside of your head tag anymore – you’ll definitely need a developer to set it up for you. Check out Google’s official tutorial on how to add the analytics code to AMP pages.

Conclusion

If your site is not supporting AMP yet, it might be a good time to get ahead of the competition. If you’re a WordPress user, implementing it won’t be too hard: it’s just a matter of installing a plugin. You’ll have a more difficult time implementing the analytics code, though.