AMPing Your Pages: Pros and Cons

by Guest Author on November 1, 2017

in Articles, Guest Posts

If you were asked whether you wanted your mobile pages to load quickly or more slowly, the answer is simple, right? In today’s hurry-up world, who wouldn’t want speed-of-light page loading? Right?

Well, that’s exactly what AMP accomplishes but, before you make the decision to use AMP protocol on your mobile pages, make sure you realize what you’re committing to, and what you’ll need to give up because of that decision.

Setting Up Pages

You will need to use AMP HTML in the source code, which isn’t a task you can assign to just anyone on your team. This takes some expertise. Conditional HTML comments are not permitted, and CSS must be inline with a maximum size of 50k. Only one advertising-related tag is permitted, and it isn’t intuitive to add. You can find more coding specifics at Developers.Google.com

Then, after the pages are set up, each page needs validated, which adds to the workload. Someone will also need to monitor Google Search Console for validation errors, ones that typically but not exclusively involve HTML issues. It’s considered a validation error, as just one example, if the author stylesheet exceeds 50,000 bytes. You can use the AMP Project validator tool to troubleshoot. Remember to enter the AMP URLs.

Also watch what features you add to AMP pages. The Guardian news site had AMP invalidated when they added a Facebook Messenger share button “before that feature had been AMP-approved.” This happened on the day of the contentious presidential election in the United States. So, on Guardian’s biggest traffic day of the year, the “top story was invalid.” Ouch.

Setting up AMP pages isn’t necessarily cheap, either. The Guardian needed to create an 11-person team to address AMP issues and “other aspects of the site.” There are costs associated with maintaining these pages, as well, mostly in the form of staff time.

AMP URLs and Caching

Although the rendering of pages is streamlined, the URLs themselves become more complicated. Each AMP URL looks something like this: www.google.com/amp/www.example.com/amp/doc.html

Google caches AMP pages almost immediately, and what’s returned to searchers is the cached version of each page. Users have noted that clicking on an AMP link is therefore so seamless that it doesn’t feel as though you’ve ever left Google’s search results page. This may make for a quality user experience, but how do you feel about pages on your site being presented that way? Will users perceive the quality information you provide as being presented by you, or by Google?

Google shares why different URLs exist (there is both a Google AMP cache URL and a Google AMP viewer URL) and states that they’re doing their best to make it easy for searchers to determine the source of the content, so perhaps this issue will ultimately be addressed. Overall, though, when you AMP your pages, you are giving Google control over how you display mobile content, which can be unsettling. How do you feel about this comment?

“AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google’s implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google’s implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn’t limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.”

Finally, it’s super-easy for people consuming your site’s content to link to the cached version of your page, rather than to your actual website. This will likely lead to a reduction of inbound links to your site—and, since rankings are so closely tied to inbound links, this can be problematic.

Coding and Tracking Issues

With AMP, third party JavaScript is banned (outside of the use of sandboxed iframes). External resources must be asynchronously loaded. And, in general, AMP plugins are buggy. Your lead generation forms can be challenging to implement, and page-header call tracking data is lost because of the JavaScript restrictions. Display ad campaigns? Allowable third-party pixels are limited!

Reporting

When you run historical ranking reports for mobile rankings, all can become muddled. In reality, your rankings might be the same—or you might have increased in rankings. But no matter what the actual ranking changes are, the reports will look as though you’ve lost rankings, because mobile pages will be replaced with cached versions of the pages.

And . . .

Although mobile searches are more common in 2017 than desktop searches, there is still a significant number of people searching from desktops, so you’ll still need to dedicate resources to rendering the best pages for them. AMP pages aren’t useful for e-books, videos, podcasts, white papers and other more in-depth content. Plus, they are ugly. Really ugly. Branding and styling elements have been stripped (although templates are being created to help address this concern), resulting in unattractive pages.

You can find more in-depth information here about AMPing your site.

So, Why AMP?

There are also excellent reasons to use the AMP protocol. Here are a few of the most compelling.

Pages load very quickly and, in today’s world, that’s crucial. Although AMP itself is not yet a ranking factor, on January 25, 2017, John Mueller said that, by making AMP pages the canonical version, Google will consider these fast-loading pages when making ranking decisions—and speed is a ranking factor. Site speed leads to lower bounce rates, which boosts user engagement, so AMP is indirectly a factor in ranking pages.

Large news sites have seen significant positive changes, including these:

  • Wired.com experienced a 25% increase in click-through rates
  • Slate.com monthly visitors (unique) increased by 44%
  • Gizmodo.com site impressions increased by 50%

SearchEngineLand.com, meanwhile, published a retail-based case study, where traffic and customer actions saw an appreciable increase. So, although AMP started out benefiting news sites, the reach is expanding.

Here’s another reason to AMP. News-site AMP-ed pages are prominently displayed in an above-the-fold carousel, providing these pages with more visibility as they give searchers the instant gratification they crave. It’s reasonable to expect that something similar will occur with non-news-related AMP pages in the future.

AMP pages are already showing up in Google’s featured snippets and, at some point in 2018, Google is expected to roll out a mobile first index. AMP pages are expected to occupy prime real estate will that happens.

So, there you have it: both the pros and cons of AMPing your pages. What have you decided to do?

Guest article written by: Chris Gregory is the founder and a managing partner of DAGMAR Marketing, a local SEO company based in Jacksonville, Florida. The agency’s work was recently recognized in Search Engine Land’s international search marketing competition, garnering the Best Local SEO Initiative award in 2016.

Comments & Leave a Comment

comments

{ 0 comments… add one now }

 

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: