Will AMP affect your business?

Examining the recent changes brought about by Accelerated Mobile Pages from Google, SEO Executive Lynne Andrews discusses how they could affect your site.

If you use your smartphone to search the internet, you may have noticed a difference in some of the results pages, with a new layout and search carousel along the top. These changes are due to a new Google initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project. This post will explain what this is and how it could potentially affect your site.

What are Accelerated Mobile Pages?

The Google AMP Project was first announced by Google in October 2015 with an aim to make mobile pages faster, and on 24th February, Google integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results.

AMP HTML is a stripped down form of HTML that only includes the most vital content, such as text, images or video. Certain HTML tags, such as forms, can’t be used. You also can’t use traditional JavaScript. You will have to use a limited version, and a more streamlined version of CSS.

There is also the option of using Google AMP cache, where Google will cache your content on a number of servers around the globe so that your content can be accessed quickly anywhere in the world.

The logic behind all of these changes is that the platform is designed for readability and speed. For the user, pages will have relatively basic text and images, but will load up to 10 times faster than traditionally formatted content.

How to recognise AMP

AMP pages are displayed above the fold at the top of Google search results in a swipeable carousel with an AMP lightning bolt icon distinguishing it from other results. However, with Google’s love of varying the format of the SERPS, this could change in future.

Why the sudden change?

More searches come from mobile devices than desktops and page load speed is just as important to users as ever, with studies finding that users abandon a page if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less.

Google recognises this move to mobile with a number of its algorithmic updates centred on creating a better experience for users.

Site speed has been a ranking factor since 2010 and last year Google began penalising mobile sites that displayed full-page app install adverts, an event otherwise known as Mobilegeddon, in a bid to promote mobile-friendly sites on its web search results.

The AMP project is just the most recent in a series of changes to make viewing content a better experience on mobiles.

How will this affect your website?

Firstly, it will be a ranking factor, though how influential it will be is yet to be seen. Secondly, being labelled as AMP on the results pages will likely make your page favourable to users on mobile devices; increasing click through rate, which could lead to more ad views, sharing and engagement with your content.

Sites using AMP will have their pages load faster in Twitter, so if you use Twitter to publicise your content, it would again be beneficial to have these as AMP pages.

With the AMP carousel appearing at the top of the SERPs, the rest of the organic results are pushed down the page. With paid ads taken into consideration, the organic listings could be even lower. For sites that don’t update to AMP pages, there is likely to be a decrease in impressions and clicks, even if you obtain the top organic position.

Will everyone need to change their site to AMP?

The benefits of AMP pages will be mostly felt by publishing sites, so sites that produce a lot of news articles or blog posts, however any company with a blog or news section can benefit from updating these sections to AMP HTML.

These changes aren’t intended for speeding up general e-commerce or brand sites; read our blog post here on how to speed up these pages. With its scaled back HTML, the focus is on speed, not looks and a lot of design elements are lost. Therefore most pages on ecommerce sites would not be suitable to be changed.

As AMP will only be viewed on mobiles, it goes without saying that you only need to prioritise AMP if a lot of your traffic comes from mobile devices. A quick look at your analytics will reveal if this is the case.

How to update to AMP

If your site is Wordpress, updating is relatively quick and painless. You will need to install an AMP Wordpress plugin and edit the URL. The pages will look alarmingly bare, so to preserve branding and design, you will need to edit the CSS to make the AMP look more like your site.

If your site is not Wordpress, you will have to hard code the changes. Instruction for this, and how to update Wordpress sites, can be found on the AMP Project site.

The future of AMP

For many companies, updating your websites to AMP will not be necessary. For sites with a focus on news content, adding AMP could not only get you ahead of the trend on mobile-optimised content, but will get increase your chances of getting to the top of the results pages.

As it is still early for AMP, how it will impact other areas, such as news and local pack, is not yet known. For brands that rely on traffic from these sources, keeping a watchful eye on developments will be essential.

By Lynne Andrews, SEO Executive.