Why site speed is important

Most internet users expect fast loading times as a given. In fact, numerous studies have shown that if a page hasn’t loaded within three seconds, many of us will abandon a page and browse elsewhere. Mobile page speed was a major focus for Google in 2016 with Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirming mobile page speed will soon become a ranking factor.

2016 was also the year that Google launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) initiative to help businesses deliver fast loading times to their users. AMPs were initially limited to news publishers but in August 2016, it was announced that AMPs were going to be rolled out across the entire organic search results. There are now 860,000 domains using AMPs around the world and with the recent news that a host of Japanese companies have adopted the framework, it looks as though AMPs are here to stay.

Although we’ve written before on the topic of AMPs and site speed in general, we thought we’d give you a revised round up of what AMPs are, where they’ve been used since their launch in February 2016 and most importantly, how you can implement them to deliver a lightning fast experience to your users!

What are AMPs?

In layman’s terms, AMPs are essentially a version of a page where much of the code is stripped back and reduced so that the page can load as fast as possible. Implementing AMP will mean that you create two versions of a page – one traditional web page and one AMP version. The traditional web page is the original version of the page that users will typically see if they visit via desktop or when navigating from another page on your website while the AMP version is a minimalistic, stripped back version of the page.

Users can recognise AMP pages in search results based on the AMP logo as shown below:

The AMP framework consists of the following components:

AMP HTML: If you’re familiar with HTML then AMP HTML is similar in a lot of respects. The main difference is some custom tags and restrictions within it that are enforced in order to achieve a lightning fast load time. This means that features such as comments below the article cannot be used. You can view an AMP HTML template on the AMP Project page to give you an idea of what to expect.

AMP JavaScript: The specific AMP JavaScript framework must be used on AMPs as third party JavaScript and author written JavaScript is not permitted. This format is mainly used to manage resource handling and asynchronous loading although you are able to configure some additional components that deal with a greater range of functions.

AMP Content Delivery Network: This feature is optional and is essentially a Google AMP cache that will cache your content and store it on a number of servers so that content can be accessed quickly from anywhere. This network will automatically apply performance optimisations for you. It should be noted that this option will not take the user to your site, however Google will place the link to the original URL of your page at the top of the page so that users can share your content.

What are the benefits of AMPs?

The obvious benefit of AMPs is delivering lightning fast pages for mobile users! As described previously, mobile users are more likely to abandon a page if it hasn’t loaded inthree seconds. Therefore, implementing AMPs could potentially help to increase traffic to your site and thus increase the chance of the user converting or completing an engagement goal. As awareness of AMPs increases, it’s conceivable that users will start to seek out AMP pages in the search results which could be beneficial to CTR.

Although it hasn’t been explicitly stated by Google that AMPs improve organic rankings, mobile-first indexing is on the horizon and Gary Illyes has confirmed that page speed will be incorporated into this. As AMP is a framework that delivers lightning speed and quality user experiences, it’s likely to help improve the mobile ranking of your pages.

If you’re a content publisher then AMPs are a brilliant way to get your articles noticed through the news carousel which features in the SERPs. With many publishers relying on advertising, in recent months the AMP project has developed new features for effectively displaying banner and carousel ads without compromising on page speed. With articles dominating the attention-grabbing carousel, and bringing in a strong level of traffic, this could be an opportunity to increase influence and impressions. From an ecommerce perspective, there has been speculation that the format of AMPs could allow for an improved product browsing experience given the fact that users would be able to navigate through product pages with ease.

Which sites are using AMPs?

As AMPs were initially rolled out exclusively to publishers, it’s perhaps unsurprising that websites such as The Guardian, BBC and The New York Times were some of the first to board the AMP train.

However, on the 30th of June 2016, eBay announced that it had been experimenting with AMPs to deliver an improved mobile ecommerce experience for their users. This was a sign that businesses beyond news and publishing were starting to adopt the AMP framework.

Although AMPs are still predominantly used by news publishers today, many other sectors have followed eBay’s lead and started to experiment with the technology themselves. Now a diverse range of sectors are returning AMP results for example, SimilarTech report that there are 2,636 results being returned in the real estate sector, 1,537 in accommodation and hotels and interestingly 12,005 results in the education sector.

As the number of sectors implementing AMP increases, the international adoption of the lightning fast framework is also going to increase significantly. In March 2017, it was announced at the first AMP conference in New York that AMP was rolling out to search engines in Japan and China. This will deliver the AMP experience to over a billion new users and therefore will prompt many businesses in far eastern markets to adopt the framework.

How do I implement AMPs?

The AMP project page delivers a step-by-step guide on how to create your first AMP page. Another extremely useful resource is AMP by Example which has recently been launched to give coders a more hands-on introduction to AMPs with examples of all the components and a chance to test them. If you’re using WordPress then you can use the AMP WordPress plugin.

It should be noted that given the fairly rigid framework of AMP, you most likely will not be able to implement AMP on pages that require forms, comment sections or important components in booking engines. On the topic of components in AMPs, it’s important to note that you must have AMP versions of your components rather than placing existing components within the AMP markup.

It’s best to audit your website and analyse which pages are AMP-compliant. Using a testing tool such as Google’s AMP Test and or The AMP Validator will allow your development team to play around and test which combinations can work best for your site.

If you’re interested in finding out more about implementing AMPs then Equator’s Senior Web Developer Carole Logan has written about her experiments with AMP implementation in Umbraco in her blog.

It’s quite clear that everything Google are geared towards currently is improving user experience on mobile – with near instant mobile page speed a fundamental part of this. Essentially, websites that can deliver their content to users the quickest will be rewarded in the SERPs.

The starting gun has already been fired in this race and AMPs are a great way to ensure a podium finish for your business.

Interested in implementing AMPs on your site and finding out how your mobile SEO strategy could be improved? Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.