The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was announced by Google in October 2015.  Google and other industry leaders including Twitter feel that the mobile internet experience is just too slow and clunky for users – they aren’t getting the content they want to consume quickly enough leading to a frustrating experience.  AMP is an open source project which aims to resolve this through a new framework that allows publisher’s content to load instantly, any time, any place.

How does AMP work?

Content publishers create an AMP version of their page using the lightweight, stripped down HTML specified in the project.  This uses some of the existing HTML tags but also removes many that can’t be used in an AMP page.  Your pages also need to use a streamlined CSS and restricted Javascript which doesn’t allow any third party scripts.

If you like techy stuff, find out more here. But if all that was gobbledegook to you, don’t worry about it, you don’t need to understand the detail to be able to implement it.  What it means is that these pages are really lightweight in terms of coding and super fast to load.

Another vital part of how AMP works is that Google caches the AMP pages so that when a user wants to view that page instead of having to request it from your server, Google can deliver it themselves instantly.

What does this mean for users?

All this means that visitors can load content much quicker; potentially four, six or even ten times faster than from a standard mobile site.  According to Google, 40% of users will abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load, and with AMP pages reportedly loading in just half a second, users get the content they want to read much quicker.

AMP pages look much simpler in terms of the text styling, images and design elements but deliver all the content the visitor needs to see, in lightning fast time.

How has AMP been seen in search results so far?

AMP pages are easiest to find for news related searches.  It’s been adopted by lots of big news publishers such as BBC, CNN, ABC News and France 24.

Search for something newsworthy in Google and you’ll find AMP pages shown in the Top stories carousel like this:

NBC Mobile

P.S. Don’t spend time trying to find them on your desktop (I might have done this for a few minutes, ahem!) as they are Accelerated Mobile Pages!

These AMP pages are clearly getting a lot of prominence in the search results as this carousel is displayed above the standard search result listings.

AMP pages are also displaying in the carousel for other keyword searches. For example, “How to Lose Weight”:

Top Stories

In this example they were still in the Top stories section, but less prominent on the page as it’s not a news related search term.

So far I’ve only spotted them on quite big, broad search terms – if you’ve spotted them on more long-tail niche terms it would great to hear about it.

OK, now you know what Accelerated Mobile Pages are, let’s cut to the good bit – how do they affect you as an affiliate and should you be implementing them?

My conclusion, right now, is that it depends!

AMP as a Ranking Factor

SEO’s opinions that I’ve read differ widely.

On the one hand, Google introduced mobile-friendly pages as a ranking factor some time ago now. Site speed also influences rankings directly and AMP is a Google project so they clearly think it’s important.

On the other hand, if you already have a fast, mobile-friendly site, should using a particular technology give you any kind of boost over any other site?

As you’ve seen in the search results, AMP pages are already featuring prominently for some searches. But is it a case that being AMP is the reason they are there, or would they have ranked there anyway and we are now just seeing the AMP symbol?  The fact that the Daily Mail article still shows in the Top stories for “How to Lose Weight” despite not being an AMP page suggests the latter is the case.

It seems likely that AMP could end up being a small ranking factor, and all else being equal, could give you a small boost.  But that other factors will remain the key to good rankings.

The Biggest Flaw of AMP for Content Affiliates (in my opinion)

AMP pages are fantastic for showing users a single page of content quickly.  From a Google perspective this is great – the user searches, Google shows the most relevant results to answer that search and delivers the actual content requested in an instant.

But as a content affiliate, in most cases, you’re not aiming to deliver a single page to your visitors. You want them to land on your site, read the initial article, but then spend more time on your site, visiting and reading multiple pages, and ultimately ending up on your sale pages or taking an action such as signing up to your email list.

As AMP articles are viewed within Google, it seems less easy for a visitor to navigate to other pages on your site.

Here’s how an AMP article looks:

AMPArticle

You’ll see that there is no menu option at the top of the page. There is an option at the bottom of the page to “view the full mobile site”, your footer menu is visible and I have seen AMP pages with related articles at the end.  So it’s not all bad, but it is focused around Google delivering their single page quickly rather than the visitor using your site as a whole.

It’s also a lot easier for your visitor to navigate to one of your competitors’ sites simply by swiping to the left to view the next single page result from Google.  Here’s me swiping from NBC News to Al Jazeera:

Swiping to news stories

I think these are some limitations of AMP pages for publishers and affiliates in particular. I also think it makes for only a partial solution from Google if the visitor then has to leave the superfast mobile experience of AMP if they want to view more content on your site.

As an affiliate, I’d want to make sure I had some strong text links within my article to help users navigate to other pages on my site, in order to keep the visitor for myself!

AMP Pages are Designed for Advertising Though

Whilst most of our successful affiliates at MoreNiche run content sites, often with product review articles, there are of course other methods of affiliate marketing.

Google themselves make huge amounts of money out of paid advertising, so of course they have taken this into account with the AMP project.  They see improving the mobile user experience as the key to generating the advertising industry’s next $50 billion and want ads to be faster, more beautiful and innovative, and safe and secure.

Google believes that by sticking within these guidelines ads will be served faster, meaning they are seen by more people, and if the user experience is improved there will be less use of ad blockers.

Many ad platforms including Adsense, DoubleClick, Outbrain and more are already supported within AMP pages, as well as a range of analytics options.

So if you’re an affiliate whose business model focuses on paid ads such as Adsense then it’s definitely worth looking further into whether AMP pages could benefit you.

How Can I Implement AMP Pages?

If you use WordPress to manage your website, the good news is there is already a plugin available to create your AMP pages for you.  You can find the official plugin from Automattic here.

If you’re a Yoast SEO user you may also want to check out their site for an extra plugin they’ve designed to work alongside AMP.

Drupal also has support for AMP pages, or if you’re technical you can view the AMP HTML specs on GitHub.

Next Steps for AMP Pages

You may have decided from reading the above that you want to start implementing AMP pages, you have some more research to do, or you plan to hold off for now.

Whatever you decide, I would certainly recommend the following:

  • If you don’t already have a mobile / responsive website and haven’t tested the speed and taken some basic steps to optimise it, get on this now
  • Monitor the search results for your keywords to see if AMP pages start to appear
  • Keep an eye out for changes to the AMP functionality, how it’s displayed in search results and any news / research on it being a ranking factor in itself

What do you think of Accelerated Mobile Pages so far? Have you implemented them already?  And where do you think Google and partners will take this project next?  Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!