Growth Marketing

What is Google AMP all about?

Marshall amplifier

In October, Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) would be included in top organic search results. While Google announced no search algorithms were changing, as a practical matter we know that Google puts significant emphasis on achieving the best page load speed possible, especially in mobile. SEO consultants quickly noticed that AMP pages built per Google’s best practices started bubbling to the top of mobile organic search results. Any content that relies on SEO needs to look hard at an AMP strategy – almost any search you do on mobile now has AMP pages at the top.

Since Google’s original announcement, we’ve had a lot of questions from our clients about AMP, and thought it’d be useful to share our top 4 AMP Q&A:

1. What is Google AMP?

In a nutshell, it’s the web made fast everywhere. And so, given that speed is a primary driver of UX and user engagement, it makes the user experience much better, while improving SEO.

Google AMP is not something you do TO your website, or a new tech stack you use to build your web pages. Instead, web or mobile developers create both original (non-AMP) and AMP versions of your page. There are plenty of publishing systems that claim to “automatically” create AMP versions when you publish content but, as always, you may need to tweak those so there may be a certain amount of additional design and development required to create AMP content and templates. The AMP pages are then cached by Google to accelerate page load time.

2. How does AMP work?

Primarily, AMP works by imposing restrictions. These are mainly (i) an AMP-specific version of HTML with AMP properties mixed in, and (ii) an AMP version of Javascript that is 100% async and never blocks content rendering. You can still use JS (e.g. for ads or certain content) in iframes that may load more slowly, but don’t impact the load time of the primary content on the page.

Finally, Google hosts an AMP cache including a delivery and validation toolkit.

3. What are the three biggest innovations?

It may be hard to believe, but one of the best parts of AMP is font optimization. On most websites, the fonts are actually one of the largest files downloaded, and it happens just before all content is displayed. We’ve all experienced this when we get that “flash” right as a page has almost finished loading. This is caused by the fonts being loaded, usually and annoyingly, right at the end. AMP restricts this process causing the user to feel the entire page is loading faster.

The second innovation is cross-platform image support (technically srcset support) guaranteeing images are optimized (and super fast) on each device.

Finally, there is no javascript in the “critical path” to loading a webpage. This is the biggest restriction and driver of speed. You can still use iframes to include javascript content (e.g. for ads), but the primary page is HTML-based and so it is blazing fast.

4. So what’s the catch with Google AMP?

The most obvious string attached to AMP is that AMP versions of sites are hosted on Google’s infrastructure, so they’re ultimately dependent on Google’s commitment to supporting the platform. This also means Google is the first recipient of all data (even though data is shared with the site owner). Javascript isn’t going anywhere, so sites that use JavaScript heavily will need to plan to work around those limitations. Finally, there is, of course, the cost of creating and supporting AMP pages, so every business needs to consider the potential increase in SEO and how it will improve user experience vs. the cost. All companies should ask themselves, “should I create a Google AMP page?”

We believe that in our relentless quest for speed, AMP is an interesting and important new approach. AMP pages are blazingly fast on mobile devices – the improved experience is noticeable and gets mobile web page to content experiences that start to feel much more like mobile apps. Publishers of content-heavy and SEO-dependent sites should certainly begin experimenting with AMP pages to understand impact, and be able to model what a full rollout would be like both in terms of costs and improved SEO/performance.

Looking for help AMP-lifying your web projects? Let’s talk about how we can enable your need for speed!

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