What Is Google AMP? 10 Things You Should Know

amp logoGoogle’s march towards a mobile-first world continues to push forward every day, and that’s great news for anyone with a cell phone. Improving the user experience for mobile users might not seem like a big deal, but think about how often you use your phone to search the web. That time adds up, and at the end of the day, seemingly minor user experience improvements can add up to a genuine boost in your quality of life.

Google has backed an open-source project called AMP that aims to do just that. (No, it’s not the energy drink that found a modicum of popularity a decade ago.)

1. What is it?

AMP is short for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The goal of the project is to provide a platform for web developers and publishers to put together accelerated versions of their websites and ads for display on mobile devices. In short, Google purports that webpages and ads created in the AMP framework should load up near instantly. In the era of micro-moments and instant gratification, speed is essential, and AMP will allegedly be the primary facilitator of shaving off those precious seconds.

2. Why was it created?

Let’s paint a picture here. You’re sitting in the brand-new-bespoke-locally-sourced-small-batch kolache/cronut fusion cafe that popped up in your neighborhood, growing increasingly impatient while waiting for a friend to meet you. To pass the time, you pull out your phone and start browsing the web. You click on what looks like a killer article, only to wait over 20 seconds for it to load. When it finally comes up, you run into not one, but two different pop-ups. Not only that, but it looks like some of the ad content made part of the text load incorrectly. Behold, the agony of modern inconvenience.

Joking aside – this, my friends, is a poor mobile web experience. This is why AMP was created.An example of an AMP site on a mobile device

3. What does it look like?

In comparison to the desktop versions of many websites, AMP pages are simple, clean, and lacking in aesthetic flourishes. I’m a fan of the employing a modest approach in favor of speed, but it’s worth noting that it makes most sites look pretty uniform, and that certainly put’s a limit on creativity when it comes to design. In Google search results, pages that make use of AMP are denoted as such in the search result.

4. How does it work?

AMP is essentially HTML5 that has various requirements and restrictions built into it to promote load speed. Javascript is used for optimization, and CSS3 can be used to style your pages. AMP also extensively relies on caching, and works in a similar way to content delivery networks (CDNs). When someone requests the page, the cached version is displayed to them on demand. Then, the page is requested again from it’s original server, and the cache is updated for the next person. Pretty clever, right?

5. Who can use it?

Anybody! It’s open source and free to use. Popular web design platforms like WordPress already have free plugins available to get it working on your site. As it continues to gain traction and become more popular, you should expect more tools to become available to get it working on your site, regardless of the platform you use.

6. Who should use it?

That’s more of a loaded question. Right now, it seems that AMP is primarily used by news sites and popular blogs. (It’s starting to catch on with sites with lots of product pages like eBay, too). Sites with a lot of content that frequently gets accessed via mobile will obviously benefit from the framework. If you have a news site or blog and you still don’t have a responsive version of your website, now might be a good time to jump on the AMP bandwagon. If you want the mobile version of your site to stand out from the crowd, you might want to weigh the pros and cons first.

7. What if my website is already responsive?

Don’t trip, you’re okay! AMP is still a work in progress and Google is taking it’s time rolling it out in their search results. If you’re website is already optimized for mobile devices and loads up relatively quickly, you don’t need to rush into implementing AMP.

8. Will it create problems for advertisers?

Maybe, but only if your ads are annoying or bad. According to one report, almost 25% of mobile users are already using ad blockers on their phones, so it’s likely a lot of ads might already being blocked. AMP should also do away with most pop-ups and interstitials, which some advertisers are sure to find annoying. However, this just means advertisers will need to find new, less intrusive, ways to run ads on AMP pages. The additional benefit here is that they’ll load much faster, too.

9. Will AMP create an SEO apocalypse?

Doubtful. Google reps maintain that as they roll out AMP in their search results, it shouldn’t affect page rankings very much. However, it’s worth noting that Google will give preferential treatment to an AMP version of a page in search results. Whether this means improvements in SEO rankings is another thing entirely. They’ve put a lot of emphasis on mobile-first lately, and they seem to really like this framework, so it’s worth keeping that in mind in the coming months.

10. Well go on, how do you really feel?

I’m generally an advocate of embracing new ideas, but there’s always a chance some things might not catch on. However, we’re talking about a project backed by Google here. If I was a betting man (and I am!), I’d wager that while AMP isn’t a critical component to have in your site yet, it might be in six months to a year. Only time will tell if we’ll all be livin’ the AMP lifestyle in the future.

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