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AMP – Should You Make the Jump?

Published: August 25, 2017

Author: Colin Guidi

One of the most frequent questions we get from clients is whether they should incorporate Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP from here on out), which Google bills as “an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all…{by enabling} the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”

Will AMP and its fast speeds usher you into a new phase of mobile?

AMP has its benefits and its drawbacks; in this post, we’ll try to convey context behind its creation and future and lay out some issues that should help each business determine whether or not it’s right for them. Let’s get started.

Is AMP built to last?

A short-term view of Accelerated Mobile Pages (referred to as AMP from here on out) is one that presents it as an initiative. A Google initiative, to be more exact. Historically, not all initiatives/products from Google have remained, as Google has sunset best practices and Google-based initiatives plenty of times in the past. (Examples would include: Google Alerts, Google Instant, Google Site Search (taken on several forms), Zeitgeist, Google Answers (different from Answer Cards), Google Video Marketplace, Google Reader – and the list goes on.)
One could make an argument that AMP won’t be around forever based on certain historical trends of initiatives seen as flashes in the pan by some.
However, the 3Q SEO team believes that AMP is here to stay. Why? Because AMP, while being an initiative, is mainly a framework. A framework that will very likely be built into other facets of the Google search experience and products (such as Google News). The long-term view on AMP means that not jumping on board will be an opportunity cost. But to what degree? That depends on your business, and the current mobile performance and website playbook. Also, it should be understood that people will take notice. Users will begin to realize an AMP page from a regular mobile listing (be it responsive, dynamic, or a dedicated mobile URL). If your brand claims to be forward-thinking, your users will expect to see you playing in this space.

What’s the rationale behind AMP?

It’s no mystery that page size has increased; it is now at an average of 2.1MBs. For the technology industry, it’s actually at 2.3MBs. As a best practice, Google likes your pages to be around 500KBs. Delivery of that content should happen under 3 seconds. Page bloat, server latency, and slow connection speeds are some of the aspects that AMP is looking to correct for the end user. Businesses can either spend a majority of their time increasing the performance loads of their mobile experience, or they can leverage AMP. This doesn’t mean you can take the focus off of mobile optimizations, it just allows you another avenue towards reaching mobile users. And who wouldn’t want another avenue?
The development of AMP (outside of websites that have adopted it) has also been impressive. When the framework launched back in October of 2015, the program was really only open to online publishers (news sites) as a way to speed up the delivery of their content from server to end user. The effectiveness of the AMP search experience – measured on Google’s end by user experience and usage – showed AMP as being a framework worth expanding. Since then, AMP has found its way into the mobile carousel, shows multiple listings per online publisher, and has become highly prevalent within the regular mobile SERPs (search engine results pages). Additionally, AMP pages work with SPAs (single-page apps) as well as Google’s latest initiative PWAs (progressive web apps).
Speed will continue to be a huge part of user experience, and the need for it is only increasing as users flock to smaller mobile screens with slower processors (when compared to desktops). Google has AMP. Facebook has Instant Articles. And Baidu has MIP (mobile instant pages). Baidu is – either currently or will be – working with Google to ensure there is parity between their two frameworks. If your brand is global, you can get a huge win by coding once for an AMP page (or leveraging a CMS plugin) and allowing that to live visibly in Google and then leveraging the same framework for increased mobile visibility in Baidu.

Limitations of AMP

As with most programs, there are some struggles with AMP. For example, not all of your website conversion points may transfer over. If you have form fills, you likely will need to custom-code those, as an AMP plugin is not likely to assist there. Analytics for tracking needs to be set up, which most plugins do facilitate (but you need to ensure the AMP pages are being tracked). Some plugins will force-redirect mobile traffic to AMP pages; it’s best to consult with your SEO team prior to launching AMP so that various check points can be ensured.
Additionally, if you’re running ads on your website, while AMP pages do allow for ad hosting, the experience is nowhere near as strong as with normal mobile web pages. Lastly, another current issue with AMP is that its pages are served from Google’s AMP Cache. This can be seen as good and bad. Good, since it doesn’t weigh down or rely on your server. Bad, because the content is served on a Google.com URL, since it’s from their separate AMP Cache. With a few additional actions, the user can copy the actual website URL; however, the feature is a bit hidden to date.
In the end, each business needs to decide if AMP is right for them. AMP shouldn’t be your only mobile effort; your website experience must still be optimized from a mobile point of view. AMP doesn’t appear to be going away, and its reach is only increasing. Because of how fast AMP can be launched and integrated with the website, businesses can take their time in making this call – but keeping a keen eye on the competition is always a good indicator towards potential opportunity cost.

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