“What is AMP, and do I still need to be using it on my WordPress site”?
If that (or something similar) is what you typed into Google Search and found this page, then, first, good job Google! You’re as good and accurate as ever because you served up THE BEST result:)
Second, In this article, you will find a trove of useful data on AMP:
- AMP history
- AMP pros and cons
- AMP and overall website performance (Case study)
- How to implement it on your site
- And if AMP is not your cup of tea- what’s the alternative?
If the prospect of learning about AMP has you spinning in your work chair from excitement, then I can’t imagine what you’ll do when you actually read the article below.
Tell you what?
Make it easy for me. Read first, and then tell me in the comment area what you think and whether there’s still something you’re not clear about AMP.
What is AMP, and do you really need to use it on your website?
AMP is an acronym for “Accelerated Mobile Pages,” It’s an open-source custom web development framework created to speed up web pages’ loading time on mobile devices.
Started and sponsored by Google in October 2015 (they sponsor the project, so they do not own it. There are other players involved, like Bing, Baidu, Pinterest, Twitter…); AMP shows no sign of slowing down, and in fact, is steadily increasing in popularity, as more and more webmasters jump on that wagon.
But the question is:
Do YOU need to enable it for your site? And how much is it gonna cost you?
Because AMP is not to be taken lightly, it’s not a switch you just turn on and off at a whim.
AMP has its good points and its weaknesses, all of which I discuss in great detail below.
AMP pros- why you need to get these benefits
#1- Faster loading website on mobile devices
A great mobile experience should be the very foundation of your SEO, especially since Google has unleashed the mobile-first index into the wild.
And page load speed on mobile is the largest chunk of that experience.
So it makes sense to make your pages load super fast.
The good news is that AMP pages are blazing fast. That’s because AMP is a stripped version of normal HTML, so the page has to load quickly by default- because there isn’t much to load to begin with.
In fact, according to Gary Illyes, the man who knows a thing or two about Google SEO, AMP took the average loading time from 5s to 1s.
#2- Higher mobile rankings
AMP is not a ranking factor per se; however, it affects how speedy your site loads- which is a ranking factor.
Also, studies show that pages with AMP-enabled have a lower bounce rate and higher dwell time, both of which are important metrics that Google RankBrain pays attention to.
#3- Improved server performance for your entire site
Pages with AMP-enabled are not pulled from the servers where your site is hosted. Instead, they’re served from Google’s cache.
This means that your hosting’s servers have less work to do and that extra capacity gets divided among pages without AMP, thus making them faster.
Of course, this all becomes noticeable only if you’re getting a tonne of traffic from mobile search.
#4- Google might be combining AMP with voice search and feature snippets
Google has turned from a pure search engine to a hybrid answer engine, and now they like nothing more but to show you the answer in the SERP, whenever possible.
This feature is called featured snippets, and I’m sure you saw them crop up repeatedly because almost every query has one, especially on mobile and in voice search.
There are things you can do to optimize for snippets, but recent studies show that Google actually prefers to parse content from Amp-ed pages.
What does this mean for snippet optimization?
I don’t know exactly, as no one knows how important AMP is for getting into featured snippets, but it’s worth knowing because snippets have not yet peaked in usage and are here to stay.
#5- Increased conversions and profit for eCommerce sites
If you run an e-commerce store, then enabling AMP can give you a significant free boost in page speed sales and profit.
Because, by lowering page speed, fewer people will bounce (40% of folks on mobile leave if the page takes 3s to load) and, thus, more people will stay, see what you offer, and eventually purchase.
I know it sounds incredible that one single tweak can bring in more money through the door, but it’s true.
Amazon did a study on how page speed affects conversions, and they found that 0.1 part of a second costs them 1.3 billion dollars in revenue per year.
Take a look at the image below.
But it’s not all rosy in the land of AMP-ed websites. There are significant cons you need to learn about.
#1- Decreased ad revenue
If you’re monetizing with ads- you might be in trouble. AMP supports them but mostly if embedded within the content and not in sidebars. So you can expect your revenue to plummet on all your AMP pages.
#2- Analytics can get messy, fast
If you’re the kind of guy/gal who likes to look at their analytics to gauge how their site is doing and how it could do better, then you’ll be mighty disappointed to learn that GA doesn’t work very well with AMP.
I mean, it works, but you have to tag each page individually to get the tracking with GA.
And your traffic reporting will be split into two, and that’s a real pain in… you know what (this is a family-friendly blog).
There’s an answer to this, and it’s called session stitching. I won’t even begin to pretend I know how to pull it off, so click on the link above if you want to learn more about it.
#3- You give content control over to Google
Are you really confident enough to hand over your content to Google so that they can show you or not show you in their SERPS?
You need and want your content to live on your site only. Because, contrary to what you might think, Google is not the internet. The web existed before Google, and if Google disappeared today, the web would continue to be and thrive despite the lack of Google.
But if Google disappeared today, all your AMP pages would go with it, and you’d be left wondering, “where did all my work go”?
#4- The web becomes monolithic and a Google-owned monopoly
AMP serves up pages, FAST, because:
- they’re delivered over Google’s cache and servers, and they’re the best in business.
It’s fast- but also boring.
Have you noticed how, after a while, all AMP pages start to look alike?
And if you’re like me, you like a little well-designed excitement lurking from every potential page you click on.
With AMP, that’s gone.
AMP in action- weaving a story
A well-known SEO expert, Eric Enge, tested AMP’s effect on his site Stone Temple Consulting.
He compared the performance of a mobile responsive page on his site to the same one but rendered in AMP (with a plugin called AMP by Automatic)
Here’s how the pages looked:
And here are the results:
The first page performed much better because what he did is just turn on the AMP plugin, and, of course, it was by default looking terrible.
Then he took the winning mobile responsive page and compared it with the hand-coded AMP-ed page he had built.
Here’s how they looked next to each other:
And here are the results
Why such a big difference?
I’ll let Eric conclude this one:
A big key to AMP is not to simply use a plugin, set it, and forget it. To get good results, you’ll need to invest the time to make the AMP version of your pages substantially similar (if not identical) to your normal responsive mobile pages, and with today’s AMP, for the majority of publishers, that is absolutely possible to do.
How to enable AMP on your website?
I bet you’re on WordPress, and lucky you, there’s a plugin for AMP. In fact, there’s a bunch of them, but I’ll recommend two to you.
First, there’s an official AMP plugin from WordPress.com and Google.
This plugin is free and simple to use but also severely limited. Meaning you will get AMP- but not much else (you can’t customize how the page looks- a HUGE minus in my book)
Second, AMP for WP
This is a freemium plugin that adds a lot more ways you can effectively AMP-ify your pages.
With this plugin, you can:
- Add a cookie consent notification bar
- Customize how your AMP content looks. You have different themes to choose from and an inbuilt theme dashboard to further customize the theme you choose.
- Redirect your mobile visitors to AMP pages
- Insert ads and tracking scripts
- Include contact forms from Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, or Ninja Forms (this is a paid option).
I’d give you a tutorial on setting it up, but it’s beyond the scope of this article, and I don’t have much experience with it.
Instead, read the official tutorial from the plugin’s maker:
AMP or responsive design? Or both?
In this mobile era of web search, you need a responsive design for your website, period.
And in theory- AMP is perfect.
- faster website,
- higher ranking and better SEO
- satisfied customers,
- more money.
Truly, it’s a dream come true!
Except that it isn’t.
In reality, AMP is often more trouble than it’s worth. You saw what happened to Eric Enge’s page’s performance, right?
That would’ve happened with yours, too, because, being a bit technical, it’s really easy to mess up setting up AMP (if you’re doing it manually); and it’s not enough to simply turn on a plugin and call it a job well done.
But the worst part about it all is that having AMP enabled is like giving Google the reins of your site in the SERPS.
It’s up to them to show you or millions of other sites instead, and beyond AMP – you have no mobile presence whatsoever!
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
There are awesome things you can achieve with responsive design.
Responsiveness simply means your page renders perfectly regardless of the device your visitor is using.
Your first step is to get a mobile responsive theme. This is really easy because nowadays- they come responsive by default (even the free ones).
Your second step is to optimize for page speed.
AMP gives blazing fast loading pages, but you can make your mobile-responsive pages come to a striking distance.
Site speed optimization is a guide on its own, but two of the easiest things you can do are getting a faster host and optimizing images for SEO and performance.
Conclusion- “do I need to enable AMP on my website to see good results in Google Search”?
It depends. I know that answer is annoying, but it’s the truth.
- if you’re a bit tech/analytics savvy,
- and you want a fast mobile site experience no matter what
- and you don’t mind Google taking over your content
- and you aren’t monetizing with ads
Then go for it.
You have nothing to lose, and you can gain a lot.
On the other hand:
- if you don’t want the extra hassle that comes with implementing AMP correctly;
- and you want to control your own site, content, and destiny,
- and are already providing a decent experience on mobile.
- and you monetize heavily with ads and can’t afford to take an earnings hit
Then stay away from AMP!
It will do your site more harm than good.
Instead, focus on low-effort; high-return SEO activities like:
- excellent internal linking
- regularly updating your content
- optimizing metadata for SEO
- and images for speed
- writing for featured snippets and voice search
- doing sound keyword research
The point is- you don’t need AMP to have a successful online business.
SEO is so multifaceted, and there’s always something to do.
AMP is just one speck in the cosmos of opportunities that are awaiting, and, so as not to go all poetic on you, I conclude this article and leave the final words to you.
What do you have to say to me about AMP?
Tell me in the comment area below.
Nikola & Peter,
Today I was getting prepared for a blog post ‘Technical SEO Factors’. Of course, I should include mobile-friendliness as a vital factor. Indeed, thanks for feeding me with your valuable points why anyone should still use accelerated mobile pages. Power-packed!
Glad the article was useful Jessica!