When I first heard about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, I was excited to jump on the AMP bandwagon as soon as possible. Waving farewell to slow, clunky, non-optimized websites, I started experimenting with accelerated mobile pages only to realize that, despite having plenty of pros, they have cons as well. I was all in for speeding up my web pages on mobile (which means better UX and higher mobile ranking), but I wasn’t ready to sacrifice ad revenue.
Website owners, webmasters, and digital marketers need to cut through the hype and decide if their sites actually need to start tackling Google AMP Project. The search giant did a pretty good job highlighting all the benefits of implementing pages that load instantly (especially after announcing a mobile-first index) but avoided the obvious disadvantages.
In this article, I examine all the pros and cons of using accelerated mobile pages. I also answer several questions such as: Do AMPs magically point your site to SERP success? Does it make sense to implement AMP on all pages? Which is better — AMP or responsive design? So, let’s dig in!
What Is AMP?
AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is a free, open-source framework that allows you to create mobile pages that deliver content quickly. It consists of HTML, JS, and cache libraries that, thanks to specific extensions and AMP-focused properties, accelerate load speed for mobile pages, even if they feature ‘rich’ content like infographics, PDFs, audio or video files.
AMP is a bare-bones version of your site’s mobile pages. It displays content that matters but gets rid of all the elements that take a toll on your site’s speed and performance. Here’s how a mobile page with and without AMP looks like:
The page without AMP (on the left) looks visually appealing thanks to responsive design. However, it features quite a few elements that the AMP-enabled page lacks. Its navigation bar is more detailed (with search icons, breadcrumbs, and a hamburger button). Meanwhile, the AMP version’s social buttons can be accessed all at once and are easier to tap, which simplifies sharing.
Why Is AMP Important?
AMP is important because it helps web pages load faster which potentially improves usability and convinces visitors to stay longer on your site engaging with your content. The logic is straightforward: faster load time leads to better engagement, which reduces bounce rate and improves mobile ranking.
However, AMP doesn’t improve engagement on its own. It doesn’t make your content more useful or entertaining. If your load times are perfect (which, according to HubSpot, is less than 1.5 seconds) but your content is boring, your SERPs won’t increase because of your high bounce rate. To make AMP work for your site, you need to have the best of both worlds: fast load time plus superb content.
AMP has the potential to make your visitors happy, which means a lot to Google. And if you please Google, you get higher rankings, bring in more traffic, and increase revenue. But don’t be misguided: installing AMP doesn’t equal a magically increasing SERP.
Does It Make Sense to Implement AMP?
The short answer is: It depends.
Before I give a more detailed answer to the question above, let’s look at the big picture and figure out the pros and cons of implementing AMP.
#1 It speeds up website load time
This one is obvious. With no useless elements to slow them down, AMPs are lean, slick, and fast. Users enjoy pages that don’t make them wait, so AMPs basically guarantee that your site brings in more visitors.
#2 It increases mobile ranking
Although AMP is not a ranking factor by itself, it has a positive influence on mobile ranking due to its faster load time. Potentially, if Google starts prioritizing AMPs, it will have even more of an effect on SERPs.
#3 It improves server performance
If your site generates tons of traffic from mobile, AMP will reduce the load on your servers and improve their performance. But this has a huge downside (see con #3).
#1 Ad revenue is reduced
Though Accelerated Mobile Pages Project supports ads, the potential to bring in revenue is severely limited. And it is not a piece of cake to implement ads on AMP-run pages as well.
#2 Analytics are a bit stripped
AMP supports Google Analytics but requires a different tag, which needs to be implemented on all AMP pages. Obviously, it takes a lot of time to place this tag and be able to collect and analyze data.
#3 Amazing speed is achieved, thanks to cache
Google doesn’t offer any specific technology to make your pages super fast. What it actually does is saves cached versions of AMP-tagged pages and, whenever visitors access them, simply serves them up from the cache. You figure out the rest.
AMP allows your site to load faster and guarantees better UX, but its disadvantages raise several serious questions:
- Are you ready to sacrifice at least a part of your ad revenue?
- Can you live without all the charts and tables in Google Analytics?
- And, most importantly: Are you so sure that you want to depend on Google through cache?
These are no easy questions, but you should definitely consider detailed answers to them. But before you do it, let’s compare AMP and responsive design.
AMP vs. Responsive Design
Responsive design is a must-have simply because it is recommended by Google. But does it make sense to invest in responsive when we have AMP? My answer is: yes, it does.
AMP has lots of advantages like faster load speed, better UX, and lower bounce rate. In theory, AMP is easy to install as well. All you need to do is to add a line of code below “canonical” in your page’s header. Like this:
As a side benefit, AMP allows you to get your site ready to mobile-first index without much pain. Simply select high-priority pages, then place several additional tags and a line of code. Don’t forget to test your pages using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
However, AMP ties your site to Google. Without the cache stored on Google’s servers, you don’t have any mobile pages at all. You, as Benjamin Franklin would say, trade your site’s liberty for some temporary ranking benefits (which are not guaranteed, by the way).
But the most crucial downside is that AMP is not that easy to install. If you use a WordPress website, you can always install the AMP Plugin, but it doesn’t work smoothly (at least, if you use conflicting plugins like Yoast or Monarch). You have a single option: Place all the necessary tags and code manually — which takes time.
In a nutshell, I recommend waiting several months until we understand what Google’s next steps are concerning AMP and the mobile-first index. But, until then, it makes sense to apply the need-for-speed approach and accelerate your responsive website as much as you can.
For now, I don’t recommend implementing AMP (at least if you have a mobile-friendly, responsive website). Wait until AMP becomes a ranking signal. Let it withstand the test of time. After all, Google could still abandon AMP as a failed technology.
However, if Google makes the mobile-first index a Web standard, which will undoubtedly hurt desktop-related SERPs, you should consider implementing AMP on some of your site’s critical pages: info pages, blog posts, contact us, etc. This will help you ‘move’ the link juice from desktop to mobile and support your SERPs.
Screenshots by Sergey Grybniak. Taken December 2016.