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AMP for SEO

What is AMP?

Mobile users continue to make up a larger portion of internet users worldwide, meaning that the need for webmasters to provide a quality mobile page experience is only becoming more important. AMPs — Accelerated Mobile Pages — are one way webmasters can keep up with this ever-growing population of mobile users. AMP is an open-source initiative that allows you to create web pages that load quickly on mobile browsers. They are lightweight pages designed to give mobile users a lightning-fast, more engaging experience. 

AMP vector art

How AMP Works

When the AMP alternative is available, the user is served the AMP version. 

The free, open-source framework allows you to build pages that work like a stripped-down version of your main pages, that function without the speed taxing elements that impact load time. When a standard webpage has an AMP alternative available, a link to the AMP version is placed on the page via an HTML tag and this is what is served to the mobile device user. 

AMP framework allows developers to build pages using three CoE elements:

  • AMP HTML — standard HTML with some specific tags that enable performance improvements
  • AMP Javascript — prevents 3rd party JS from blocking the rendering of the page
  • AMP cache — content delivery network specifically for AMP documents. Most are served via the Google AMP cache.  

Who supports AMP?

It is open-source, meaning it is software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. The project is backed by WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Bing, and others — But Google is the main promoter and key code contributor.

Over 160 ad platforms and 15 CMSs support it. 

Benefits of AMP

Here are some of the biggest overall benefits of AMP:

  • Increased mobile browser visibility for content marketers 
  • Improved mobile search engine rankings
  • Reduced loading time, improved user experience 
  • Beating the competition - not all sites are invited in AMP

AMP Benefits for Conversions

AMP pages load faster than all but the most highly optimized HTML pages. This reduces the amount of time between someone clicks on your ad, for example, and when they see your landing page. Faster load times reduce bounce rates, which can increase conversions. 

In fact, there are lots of case studies demonstrating the AMP framework's positive impact on publishers and retailers.

One study demonstrated a 20% increase in conversion rate on the AMP pages of two e-commerce websites, which would drive over $200K in annual profit, based on the Forrester model. And another study representing one month’s worth of anonymous user data from top online retailers — equating to approximately 10 billion user visits — found:

  • 100ms delay in load time can hurt conversion rates by as much as 7%
  • 53% of mobile visitors will leave if a site takes more than 3 seconds to load 
  • A two-second delay in web page load time increase bounce rates by 103%
  • Bounce rates were highest for mobile phone shoppers

Generally, AMP = more revenue, more mobile conversions, more mobile ROI. 

AMP Benefits for SEO

AMP is not a ranking factor. But AMP improves page speed, and page speed is a mobile and desktop ranking factor, so properly implementing AMP could have a positive impact on your rankings in the SERPs.

When used in combination with structured data AMP increases the likelihood to appear in carousels for recipes, restaurants, courses, movies, or other rich result features like larger images.

When a mobile site uses AMP, Google marks it with a lightning bolt icon in Search Results — this designation could also increase CTRs knowing that it leads to faster experience.

It's also important to note that AMP could hurt SEO for your web page if it is not properly implemented.

To get good results, you 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 if your content on the AMP page isn’t similar to that of your mobile responsive pages, Google will penalize you by not including you in the carousel. So, you will typically have to create brand new templates for at least the major landing pages on your sites. Sites that don't see good results typically have implementation issues.

In a recent Google Search Central Q&A session (timestamp 1:20:45) with Martin Splitt, Gary Illyes and John Mueller, they explained that, while using AMP pages is usually beneficial to SEO and user experience, using broken AMP pages will only hurt you.

Google cannot crawl broken pages and serving a broken page will hurt the mobile user experience for your site. So, if you have to choose between serving a broken AMP page or a non-AMP page, you should choose the non-AMP page — at least until you can fix the broken AMP page.

AMP After The Page Experience Update

Since Google announced their support for AMP, using AMP has been a requirement to appear in the coveted Top Stories carousel in mobile search results. This will change with the May 2021 Page Experience Update to allow both AMP and non-AMP pages if they meet a certain page speed requirement. This new bar for mobile page speed will be whether or not a site hits a certain median threshold for each of the core web vitals metrics.

As we previously mentioned, AMP can affect rankings because it improves your page speed. If implemented correctly, the load time improvements are often sizable. The median load time for an AMP page is less than one second — well within the core web vitals requirements.

Technical Advantages of AMP Pages

Here are some technical advantages of AMP:

  • Less data consumption
  • Improved server performance
  • Free CDN
  • Higher AD viewability. 
  • Faster page load times

What are the disadvantages of AMP pages?

Some Disadvantages

  • It's a restrictive framework design and will remain so in order to deliver on speed.
  • It's an extra burden to implement.
  • It creates technical debt as both AMP and canonical pages need to be kept in sync unless you go all in AMP native.
  • Fast speed is not guaranteed without the AMP cache. 
  • Being in the Top Stories carousel drives impressions but not necessarily engagement metrics. 

What sites should implement AMP?

It depends. If users are primary from desktop, AMP is not for you. While AMP pages do work on desktop, they don’t display with rich features and aren’t served from the AMP cache. 

If you create newsy content, yes. At least until AMP is no longer the gatekeeper of the Top Stories carousel. 

If your non-AMP pages can achieve the core web vitals requirement of LCP within 2.5s, test the impact of removing AMP. AMP is for sites that can’t hit this threshold.

What are the guidelines for AMP pages?

  • Ensure users can experience the same content and complete the same actions on AMP pages as on corresponding canonical pages where possible. 
  • Use the same structured data on both pages. 
  • Make sure your robots.txt file doesn’t block your AMP pages. 
  • Use the AMP test tool to ensure the page meets google search requirements. 
  • Make your content discoverable by linking your pages. For crawling and indexing, google requires AMP page links to a canonical page. Which can either be a non amp version or it can be the AMP page itself. 
  • Optimize for rich mobile search results: implement structured data, verify using rich results test, ensure logo meets AMP logo guidelines, verify Amp using AMP test tool.