By Chase Lyne
The AMP framework has become pretty popular since Google first introduced the open source initiative in 2016. While they were first primarily popular with publishers, many retailers and other enterprise brands are now using the technology as a solution for lightning-fast mobile performance.
A lot of the information surrounding AMP was written with developers in mind, but if you’re an SEO, AMP can affect the metrics you care about as well — what do you need to know about AMP?
Google announced AMP in 2015 and officially launched the project in February 2016. The fact that AMP is a Google-led initiative is significant. When Google does something, SEOs need to pay attention, because it reveals a lot about where search is going and how our websites need to adapt.
According to Google’s announcement post, they launched AMP as a solution to the growing demand for mobile content combined with the reality that people will abandon pages for slow load times.
“Every time a webpage takes too long to load, [you] lose a reader,” Google said. Slow-loading web pages are bad for both the searchers they frustrate and the brands that lose revenue because of it. AMP’s super-light framework was posed as the answer.
AMP has evolved since its initial release, gaining support on a variety of platforms as well as adding new features. It’s evolved so much over the years that it’s not even called “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (where the original acronym came from) anymore. At the 2019 AMP Conf, AMP’s tech lead declared that “AMP is now just AMP.”
So if AMP isn’t accelerated mobile pages, what is it?
According to the AMP team, AMP is a framework to easily create ads, emails, websites, and stories. It’s only getting more popular, and its use cases more expansive, so SEOs can’t ignore this as a fringe technology. It’s a growing component of the modern web.
Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go: AMP is not a ranking factor.
However, if you have an AMP version and non-AMP version of a page, and the AMP version is the declared canonical that Google indexes, then Google will use the AMP version to determine quality and relevance for ranking. That’s different than saying your page will rank better just because it’s AMP (it won’t).
According to the AMP team though, you don’t need to have non-AMP versions of your web pages. You could build your entire site using the AMP framework. Because AMP improves page speed, and page speed is a ranking factor on both mobile and desktop, properly implementing AMP as either the only or primary (canonical) version of your pages could have a positive impact on your performance in the organic SERPs.
This framework not only makes basic web pages faster. It can also help brands deliver visual-heavy content faster too. With AMP Stories, pages that are typically resource-heavy and create slow web experiences can become lightning-fast, drastically lowering things like bounce rate and server strain, which can also benefit search engine performance.
AMP could also increase your click-through rate (CTR). Studies like this one from Stone Temple show that implementing AMP increased organic CTR for both publishers and e-commerce websites, leading to an increase in traffic. The increase in clicks could be explained by the way AMP URLs show up in SERPs (pictured below: the lightning bolt icon), and people who have previously had positive experiences with AMP pages may be more inclined to click on these types of pages in the future.
The official AMP website is full of case studies demonstrating the framework’s positive impact on publishers, retailers, and other brands.
“There are well-known pros and cons of AMP when it comes to your conversion rates. But for SEO purposes, AMP technology mostly affects your crawling budget; when analyzing logs, you will see an impressive increase in Googlebot activity. Also, we didn’t see any significant impact on rankings, only on crawling.” – Aleksandrs Buraks of Discover Cars
This was Google’s goal. Improve the on-site experience, making it fast and seamless, and both brands and the end user would benefit.
This all sounds great, but is it always this way?
AMP’s initial rollout was met with a healthy dose of skepticism from the SEO industry. Many balked at the idea of Google seemingly navigating searchers away from a page’s native site to a Google cache URL. The page view would still be counted so long as analytics was properly added to the AMP pages, but with most user actions on AMP pages leading the user to leave the Google cache that AMP Analytics is tracking, your AMP metrics will look something like this:
If you’re looking for AMP data on your main domain property in Google Analytics, you won’t be able to see the AMP visits (only clicks to the regular site from AMP) unless you stitch the data from your AMP analytics and regular website analytics together. You can do this by following Google’s guide to session unification for AMP.
Reporting issues aside, is there any risk that AMP could actually hurt your SEO performance?
Only if it’s implemented incorrectly.
For example, a page could contain invalid AMP HTML, causing it to load incorrectly. This could mean that the page doesn’t qualify to show up in places like Google’s Top Stories carousel. Maybe your AMP page canonicals to the desktop version, but the desktop version doesn’t include the required rel=”amphtml” tag. Or maybe you’ve accidentally disallowed crawlers from accessing your AMP pages. Additionally, for some sites moving over to this framework, previous site functionality gets stripped down due to AMP’s limitations.
As with any framework, it’s only as good as its implementation. Errors can have a negative impact on search engine performance as well as user experience.
If you manage SEO for a website that doesn’t utilize AMP, you may be interested in speaking with your development team to see if it’s a good fit for solving performance issues you might be facing.
One thing you can tell your developers is that the resources required to implement AMP aren’t as intense as they are for other frameworks, especially if you want to implement AMP on a site or part of a site that uses WordPress. Because AMP is an open-source initiative, there’s extensive documentation to help your developers with implementation.
For this reason, AMP also makes a good solution if you want to move away from having a separate mobile domain (ex: “m.domain.com”). Responsive design is a popular option for mobile-friendliness, but it can be time and labor-intensive for development teams. Because AMP can be easier to implement by comparison, in certain cases, it may be a good solution.
At the end of the day, AMP is about increasing your organization’s traffic and revenue. More people than ever are shopping and reading on their phones. Whether it’s AMP or some other framework, you need to prioritize your mobile website experience.
If the website you manage is using AMP (or wants to), Botify has a number of reports that can help you and your organization keep track of their performance. In fact, we wrote a step-by-step guide to monitoring AMP in Botify. Our reports can help answer questions like:
Below we map out a few sample reports we can pull for your AMP pages:
Content size (by words) across your AMP pages:
Structured data implementation across your AMP pages:
Crawl data for your AMP URLs and which specific Googlebot (example below shows Google Smartphone) is crawling them:
Total traffic to your AMP pages:
If you or someone at your organization is still on the fence about AMP, we could even help you test it on your site by comparing your specified KPIs on AMP vs. non-AMP pages, or run crawls on an ad hoc AMP project.
We’d love to walk you through Botify’s AMP reporting capabilities, so feel free to book a demo with us! AMP can be a great solution for your website’s mobile performance, so if you do choose this framework, we’re here to help.