Is AMP Good for Your Website?
Everything You Need to Know About Google AMP SEO
AMP project has been the centre of controversy since the very first day it launched. Though it promises a boosted page speed and satisfactory visibility on Google search result pages, the AMP project demands submission to a stripped-down form of HTML. While the case studies on Google Accelerated mobile pages were quite hopeful, the implementation was haphazard and the results were confusing. Being confused, the marketing industry often faces this question – is doing AMP pages SEO required?
In today’s blog, we will discuss what AMP website meaning is and how it matters when it comes to the SEO for your site. Let’s read on to learn the advantages and disadvantages of AMP pages SEO.
What is AMP?
Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP are the lightweight pages specially designed by the AMP website builder to enable mobile users to experience a faster loading website with more engagement. We can also say, this is an open-source HTML framework that offers a simple way to design a faster and smoother loading website and prioritize the user-experience above everything. There are many AMP website examples that experience lightning fast speed.
For most sites, Google accelerated mobile pages create a stripped-down, mobile-optimized AMP copy of existing HTML 5-page content. When this type of AMP alternative is available, the users can view the AMP version over the canonical page.
AMP supports the distribution of content on the open-source or open web without going through a platform-specific app. And this is exactly where it gets political.
How AMP gets political:
When it comes to technicality, it is indeed open-source. AMP project is backed by LinkedIn, WordPress, Pinterest, and Bing. However, Google is the key code contributor and the main promoter. It plays so many roles that people often refer to it as Google mobile pages.
Based on the enforcement of restrictions on ads and user interface design, AMP prioritizes the user experience. The limitations are-
- Restricting CSS to 75KB
- Moving all the fluff out of the critical rendering path
These restrictions can easily make a webpage faster on mobile. However, it is not the secret sauce that makes them instant.
The Technical Part:
To achieve the fastest loading speed, Google Server hosts the AMP pages. It enables Google cache, preload, and pretender AMP content before a user clicks the link in the search results. When one clicks AMP content in Google, it can be visible in one of the two ways.
- Google AMP Viewer:
In this case, the source of the content publisher is displayed at the top, but the URL remains a Google domain.
- Signed exchange or SXG:
This enables the browser to treat the page as if it belongs to your domain. Signed AMP content is delivered in addition to regular AMP HTML. Out of the two, Google prioritizes linking to the signed content.
Google can influence how websites are built and monetized to shape the internet in its favor by forking” HTML, pre-rendering AMP content, and giving preferential treatment to AMP mobile pages. This is the reason AMP project has been criticized by many in the SEO and technical industries as an attempt by Google to exert further control over the web.
AMP for WordPress:
The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the AMP web better for all. The official AMP plugin for WordPress supports fully integrated Accelerated mobile pages publishing for WordPress sites, with robust capabilities and granular publisher controls.
Advantages of AMP pages:
When you design an AMP website, you benefit in multiple ways. Experience less data consumption, a free CDN, improved server performance, and higher ad viewability are the benefits that you can receive with AMP pages. Two most important benefits of having an AMP friendly site is –
1. Faster page load times:
This is true that AMP does not involve in ranking factor but the speed of your site plays a considerable role in ranking factor. If implemented rightly, the load time improves significantly.
According to Google, the median load time for an AMP page is less than one second. This is satisfactory within the core web vital requirements.
The loading speed of your site often leaves a run-on effect of more optimized user experience, witnessed by
- Higher time on site
- Lower bounce rates
- Increased conversion rates
2. Additional visibility in Google Search results:
AMP pages are accompanied by a boosted appearance in Google SERPs on mobile.
3. The icon tells it all:
At the most basic level, the AMP pages are highlighted with the lightning bolt icon in the Google search engine result pages. According to some SEOs, this icon helps in increasing the CTR (click-through rate) to a great extent. This is because the icon attracts users and they choose from AMP results that will lead them to a fast loading page.
4. When AMP is added with Structured data, the chances of getting rich results increases:
AMP in combination with valid structured data increases the likelihood to appear with a host carousel, like – shows for courses, recipes, mobiles, and restaurants) or with rich result features, like headline text and larger than thumbnail images. However, AMP is not compulsory for these boosted features.
5. Swipe to visit:
An exclusive swipe to visit functionality makes AMP pages quite popular. When a user selects an image, they find a preview of the site header. They can swipe up the header to visit the source page.
Disadvantages of AMP:
- It is a restrictive framework by design:
When it comes to the design, the Google AMP framework is quite restrictive and their design is meant to deliver the promised speed.
- An extra burden:
Implementing AMP is an extra burden and it subsequently remains valid in the ever-changing AMP standard. Though the plugins can give a head start, they rarely work perfectly.
- Technical debt is created:
Since both the AMP and canonical pages of the code have to be kept in sync, it creates technical debt.
- Lightspeed is not guaranteed:
If you don’t have AMP cache, lightning speed is not guaranteed. When a source links to AMP pages without using an AMP Cache (AMP page example- Twitter), additional performance optimizations are highly required to achieve the optimal speed.
The disadvantage of AMP from a sales perspective:
- The presence of AMP inventory creates complexity:
If you want to implement the best practice with separate ad units for precise reporting, you have double the ad units to manage.
- The framework restricts ad features:
AMP does not support disruptive ads, like interstitials or expandables. Implementing the direct-sold ads can be complex.
From a marketer’s perspective:
- It is expensive:
Since Google wants to ensure parity, AMP costs double the crawl for one piece of content.
- Engagement metrics are less:
This is true that it drives impression, but the engagement metrics are not as expected. This is because of the top stories carousel ‘swipe’ functionality that encourages users to read more from other sources.
- Optimizing it is an extra burden:
Just because an AMP project is live does not mean it is SEO friendly. To get the most out of your AMP, you have to partner with your development team.
- Google’s AMP Viewer might dilute brand identity:
When AMP optimized, it is displayed as a Google domain in the address bar instead of the publisher’s domain. This sometimes confuses users who have been trained that the URL in the address bar has significance.
How to optimize AMP pages:
The AMP adopters do not always show you a positive result. There are two major reasons that might not give you a rise. They are –
- Your AMP adopter might not always be the right fit.
- It might not be implemented thoroughly and correctly. Remember, AMP is not always as simple as a plugin and play.
- Many things should be considered from an SEO perspective to achieve the visibility boost with AMP. Apart from the obvious factors that the AMP pages should be crawlable and indexable, below are discussed the top optimization actions.
- Add information about the AMP page to the non-AMP page and vice versa in the form of rel=”amphtml on the AMP and rel=”canonical” on the non-AMP versions as tags in the .
SEO-friendly AMP URLs:
There are multiple ways you could understand the URL is AMP.
- Parameter: ?amp
- Subdomain: amp.domain.tld
- Front-end language: domain/folder/article.amp.html
- Subfolder: domain/folder/article/amp
Among them, the Subfolder option is the most flexible and the SEO-friendly one. Google recommends this option along with the front-end language.
- Consistent user interface:
Due to AMP limitations, there might be minor variations. However, when it comes to looking at AMP vs canonical versions of the same page, the user-interface and design scheme should be materially similar.
- Fully functional:
To make it user-friendly, the customization and interactive elements, like navigation menu, related content, social media sharing icons, login, ads, and forms should work as same as the canonical version.
- Verify SEO element parity:
The code behind the scenes, like hreflang, alt image text, H1s, and valid structured data should not only be present but also be the same on both the canonical and AMP pages as inconsistencies can hinder SEO visibility.
- AMP-friendly logo:
Design a logo that meets the AMP guidelines to make it AMP-friendly. Otherwise, it will not be visible in the top stories carousel.
- Don’t add AMP URLs to XML sitemap:
Only canonical URLs belong to the XML sitemap. The rel=”amphtml” is sufficient to provide a signal for Google to explore the AMP pages. When Google indexes a precisely paired AMP page, it will be the version served to the user. Since it needs a great effort to make Google AMP SEO-friendly, marketers often wonder if it is worth the effort.
Which site should implement AMP:
The official website is all about the case studies demonstrating the framework’s positive impact on retailers, publishers, and other industries. On the other side, according to some industry experts, many case studies fail. This proves that AMP is not the optimum choice for all sites. You should keep some factors in mind before you move to AMP.
If your users are mainly from desktop, AMP is not for you. Though AMP web pages do work on desktop, they are not served from the AMP Cache and don’t display with rich features.
If you develop ‘newsy’ content and are already running it on AMP, it is worth keeping it optimized until AMP works as the gatekeeper of the top stories carousel.
Keep on checking if the top stories results in your sector are dominated by AMP pages or if the non-AMP sites also rank right alongside them. If your non-AMP pages can achieve the core web vitals requirement of the largest contentful paint (LCP) within 2.5 seconds, you can remove AMP.
Sites that can’t reach the 2.5-second standard alone, having key landing pages in the standardized solution from AMP can be a fast route for this SEO win.
Remember, if you don’t move the whole website into native AMP, all the pages will not experience the increased page speed. Only the pages that come from distributed sources and support AMP, will get the increased speed.
Assessing the impact of AMP:
It does not matter whether you are moving to AMP, abandoning it, or just an ongoing user, you need to measure the true impact it leaves on user experience and site visibility.
- Confirm the AMP code validates on all relevant pages:
To confirm the AMP code validation, you can start by spot-checking a couple of pages with the help of the AMP Test Tool. With a dedicated AMP status report, Google Search Console alerts you to the reason your AMP URLs are not eligible to be indexed.
- Verify the Structured Data Parses:
The Rich Results Test Tool is helpful for one-at-a-time spot checks for applicable AMP content types. However, make sure you enter the AMP URL, not the canonical one. To ensure the best scaling, you can use a reputable SEO crawling tool.
- Understand the AMP drivers of visibility on Google:
There are multiple dimensions to analyze in the Google Search Console Performance reports. They are –
Search type –
- Web, Search appearance:
1. AMP non-rich results: This report displays metrics for blue links with lightning bolts.
2. AMP article: This report shows metrics for visually decorated search results. It is visible in carousels or with an image.
- Image Search Appearance:
AMP on Image result: It shows metrics for image search results hosted on AMP pages within the Google Images tab.
- Video Search appearance:
AMP article: It shows the metrics for video results hosted on AMP pages within the Google Videos tab.
- News, Search Appearance:
AMP article: This report provides metrics for AMP pages within the Google news tab in search results, not the Google News app.
- Discover, Discover appearance:
AMP article: It shows metrics for AMP pages within Google Discover.
AMP’s reception and case study outcomes have been a mixed bag. Many publishers enjoy the benefits of the AMP project. However, as the feature is opened up, the benefits and visibility of AMP reduce.
If your website is mainly mobile operated and hitting 2.5 seconds is not possible, Getting AMP support for key landing pages is the best thing that you can do.