SEOMike Consulting

The Importance of AMP

Google released AMP in October 2015 and most SEOs approached it with some skepticism. Google has dangled the proverbial carrot in front of our noses before to get what they wanted and then snatched away the benefit when they got their way (ex. author images in the SERPs). As usual, those early adopters are benefiting while others languish. If you haven’t heard about it yet (where have you been?), AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and, as Nathan Johns of Google said “AMP was created as a way to fix what was broken on the web”. AMP bridges the gap between site usage and speed for mobile devices. So far the broadest implementation has been for news websites. When a news site has AMP pages that are relevant to a set of results, Google will display them in what they call a carousel at the top of the results. This carousel can be advanced by sliding your finger across to move in either direction. To be honest, it’s pretty slick.

This is an example of the AMP news carousel in the Google mobile results.

This example shows that AMP pages receive an extra little icon to set themselves apart.

As you can see in the images above, Google doesn’t just show AMP pages in the carousel, they have begun to heavily favor them in certain types of results as well. The little lightning bolts above show which pages are AMP.  (A speaker at Pubcon said “in my industry, lightning bolts mean danger” and Google’s rep in attendance had this “oh yeahhhhh” look on his face.  Ha – we might see the AMP icon change in the future.)  For this particular query, non-AMP results don’t show up until way down the page in the last three spots.  In addition to getting preferential treatment from Google (for now), these pages also deliver a nice boost in organic ranking.

“Ok, cool.  I’m in.  What’s the catch?”  Good question, I thought you’d never ask!  Like everything Google does, there is always a catch, and with AMP I think there are a few:

One huge frustration from webmasters is that AMP pages are so diluted.  It’s the web distilled as low as it can get.  Basic text and basic images.  That sucks.  This is happening because the mobile phone industry hasn’t kept up with the internet, AND the internet hasn’t kept up with mobile phones.  What?? … Let me explain…  The web was headed in a very awesome direction until recently.  There were big strides in pushing client-side processing to allow for huge improvements in online experience.  There were all kinds of neat things coming because processor decentralization meant that webmasters could create to their heart’s content and push the actual processing of it off to the users that visit their sites instead of swamping their servers.  Well… can’t do that with mobile.  Though phones are fast, they’re nowhere near able to pull off that.  On the carrier side of things the problem is data caps.  All these wonderful looking websites that look great on your desktop are too image heavy for cell phones are are killing people’s bandwidth.  In my opinion, mobile use has set the web back at least four years in innovation.  In the end, AMP is needed to fill the gap between user experience, data caps, and weak cellphone processors.

What does the future of AMP look like?  I think it’s going to get more and more bloated and defeat the original purpose.  People are already figuring out ways to deliver ads in AMP.  Google announced that ecommerce and forms are coming for AMP.  There will probably be so many things bolted onto AMP as time goes by that it’ll be a fragmenting standard; it’ll really drive a wedge between mobile and desktop experiences… which is where we were not too terribly long ago.  Hopefully it’ll bring it back full-circle and webmasters will abandon these stupid responsive sites (yes, stupid.  I don’t like them because they ruin the desktop experience) and move back towards the client-side processing brilliance that they started.  Until then, better get your site ready so you see this positive reinforcement in your Search Console account.

In a future post I’ll discuss what it takes to make AMP pages valid and also introduce a great AMP plugin for WordPress.