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Google AMP Reviewed: How Has It Changed SEO?

Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages were much hyped at launch. We review how much of an impact AMP has actually made on SEO and the search industry.

Google AMP Reviewed: How Has It Changed SEO?

In an attempt to combat Facebook’s content monopoly, the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was launched in February 2016 to much skepticism. With limited advertising tags and an open source protocol that navigated users away from a landing page’s native site, many experts believed that AMP wouldn’t catch on amongst the general public.

While catering to different businesses, the AMP project has far outpaced Facebook’s Instant Articles in terms of usage and SEO buzz.

Despite all of this buzz from SEO experts, I’m not really sure Google’s AMP has had any substantial effect on the search industry, as of yet.

AMP reminds me of VR or even 3D printing. Notwithstanding their innovation and ability to truly shape the future of the world, we’re still waiting for these technologies to saturate the marketplace.

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Here, I’m going to look through some of the early research and events surrounding the rise of AMP. While charting the great AMP story, there appears to be a moral at the end.

The Mobile AMP Timeline

  • October 7, 2015: Google AMP is officially introduced.
  • February 24, 2016: Google AMP officially launched.
  • September 20, 2016: AMP web pages are included in organic search results.
  • November 4, 2016: Google announces over its blog the creation of a new mobile-first index.
  • March 2017 AMP Conference: Google announced that AMP will be available over the Baidu, Sogou, and Yahoo Japan search engines.
  • May 23, 2017: Paul Muret announces AMP will now be available over AdWords for display and search ads.
  • TBD: The rollout of the mobile-first index.

The AMP Effect

AMP Project

Since its official rollout, the number of Google AMP documents across the web has increased to over 2 billion. The number of AMP documents in September of 2016 was only 600 million.

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The number of domains that contain AMP web pages has also increased to over 900,000 and includes major domain names, such as eBay, WordPress, and the Washington Post.

Consider the metrics multiple studies have shown about the effects AMP can bring to your website:

  • According to Adobe Analytics, 7 percent of internet traffic for the U.S.’s top publishers comes from AMP web pages.
  • The Miami Herald saw a 10 percent increase in dwell time for users who visited an AMP document, as opposed to the native web page.
  • According to a DoubleClick study, 90 percent of AMP publishers saw a higher engagement rate after adopting AMP and 80 percent of publishers also reported receiving higher viewability rates.

Anticipating the release of Google’s mobile-first index, inputting an AMP or Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) into your website’s theme is far more recommended than using a separate mobile domain or responsive web design.

AMP documents load 2x faster than standard web pages and have one-tenth the latency as a responsive mobile page.

Consider these mobile statistics to persuade you to adopt mobile AMP on your website before the mobile first index:

Yet, many businesses and publishers still haven’t adopted AMP code. While providing generally positive traffic metrics, AMP documents strip many on-page elements and don’t physically bring users to the publisher’s actual website. I’d imagine many SEO experts would contend that the benefits far outpace the negatives.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the pros and cons of utilizing AMP for your mobile web design and why the AMP project hasn’t saturated the mobile market yet.

AMP Pros & Cons

Google introduced the AMP project as part of an initiative to improve the mobile web browsing experience. On the design level, AMP code stripped out adware and clunky JavaScript that didn’t load as seamlessly over a mobile device.

The simple structure of AMP would lead webpages to load nearly 4x faster than traditional webpages, while consuming eight times less data.

The AMP project is an open source protocol that is constantly updated. Websites simply insert AMP code on their website that pulls data from the AMP cache to display webpages at lightning speeds.

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AMPs use server-side rendering of the AMP cache to deliver faster web speeds. AMPs also offer lite image customization options that can limit image bandwidth usage by up to 45 percent, plus reduced document sizes.

All of this matters for SEO because faster webpages generally improve bounce rates and correlate to higher conversion rates and dwell time.

AMP articles are even more special because they are favored by Google. Not only does AMP content appear in organic results, they even have their own top stories carousel at the top of organic searches to encourage more publishers to use AMP. This amounts to an increased SERP real estate for high ranking webpages and can dramatically increase your organic search CTR.

Aside from these metrics, AMP and PWA content are some of the most effective strategies businesses have to combat app use saturation. With stripped down page elements and reduced ad space, they also improve your website’s UX.

Switching to AMP also comes with some consequences. Most AMP documents only allow for one advertisement tag and it’s quite difficult to implement. Even more disconcerting is the fact that properly inputting AMP into your source code requires the expertise of a web developer.

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Yet, not all AMP documents are created equally. While the median load time for an AMP is under one second, 99 percent of AMPs load in under eight seconds.

Wait, eight seconds? That’s not very impressive.

This is because many websites use stripped down versions of AMP code or some simply don’t input them effectively.

Even the AMP analytics is really bare bones at this point.

There’s no denying the importance AMP will play in Google’s mobile-first algorithm when it’s released. At this moment, AMP remains in its infancy, despite the positive results AMP has had for major brands.

With all of this in mind, there’s still a missing link we’ve yet to discuss.

The AMP Lesson

I don’t think any of us can say with certainty that AMP has really had much of an effect on SEO or truly been as revolutionary as it was described to be. Despite the technical bugs that plagued its early release, I blame AMPs negligible impact on two factors.

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First, Google has yet to roll out its mobile-first index and no one knows how significant or long-lasting the new index will be. There exists no sense of urgency to switch over to an AMP format. Hosting a website with responsive web design will generally be as effective.

I foresee AMP serving as a minor ranking signal in Google’s mobile-first algorithm. Until then, there’s no significant competitive disadvantage for not utilizing AMP.

However, I think there’s one major barrier to entry preventing AMP from saturating the mobile marketplace:

Most search engine users – and businesses – still don’t know what AMP even is.

In researching this article, I could find no data or surveys that asked users if they even know what AMP is or if they prefer it. The only post I found was around a single tweet, which asked if the lightning bolt symbol actually dissuades people from clicking on a listing.

Google recently tested more visible icons to try to entice user clicks on AMP articles.

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Like every marketing initiative, we base our conclusions off of user engagement. While user engagement with AMP content is generally high, search engines should do a better job communicating what AMP is to consumers and how fast it is.

The future of the AMP project relies on communicating to people the speed and usability of AMP articles. Most people simply don’t understand that the top carousel only contains AMP articles and is not just some neat current events gimmick Google conducts.

Being involved in the SEO industry, we all know what the AMP project is, but can we say the same for majority users? Maybe Google needs to hire an digital marketing firm to advertise the benefits of switching to AMP so more businesses and publishers will start using it.

Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author.


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Kristopher Jones

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Kris is the founder and former CEO of Internet marketing firm Pepperjam, which he sold to eBay Enterprises in 2009. ... [Read full bio]

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