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What is Google AMP And How Can It Be Used For SEO Purposes?

Speed is of the essence in SEO and AMP help with acceleration

2Nov

The number of mobile device users in the world is expected to reach 5.07 billion by 2019. Parallel to the rise of this mobile-first landscape, the requirements of tech-savvy users have also grown. To cater to their expectations, you need to develop a user-friendly, visually appealing and, above all, fast-loading website. Namely, studies point out that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in less than 2 seconds, while 40% of them would abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple have seen great potential in addressing this issue and gaining a competitive advantage over their competitors. First, Facebook introduced Instant Articles in May 2015. The idea behind this project was simple - with a suite of interactive features, this product enables publishers to deliver fast-loading, interactive articles and, at the same time, maintain control over their content and business models. Just a month later, Apple announced the launch of a similar feature, called Apple News. However, the greatest buzz was created around Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project which has been changing the way we browse the web.

What is Google AMP? Most importantly, can it influence your website’s rankings in SERP and how? Let’s find out.

What is Google AMP?

The developers behind the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project define it as 'an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.'

In layman’s terms, AMPs are lightweight pages that are optimized to load lightning-fast. By stripping the majority of elements that make regular webpages load slowly (cookies, third-party JavaScript, slow-loading ad networks, etc.), Google provides its users with pages that load minimal data and deliver an unbelievably fast browsing experience. This statement is supported by Pinterest’s Jon Parise, who claims that their AMPs load 4 times faster and use 8 times fewer data than their traditional pages optimized for mobile.

Moreover, Pinterest is not the only platform using AMP. Now, it powers over 2 billion pages across 900,000 domains. If it keeps growing (and it will), the entire mobile content landscape will be significantly improved for everyone on the internet, from users to publishers, advertisers and e-commerce platforms.

How does AMP Work?

The main aim of AMP is to make websites load quickly and that’s amazing. But, you need to keep in mind that such a radical initiative comes with a few massive changes. To understand this, let’s see how AMP works.

While in the past it has served as an index, leading users to other websites, Google now stores content on its own servers. This way, readers are kept on Google, which is an important change. When observed from this viewpoint, Google might be compared to the abovementioned Instant Articles that allow publishers to create content on Facebook’s servers, so that users can read articles without leaving the app. The only difference between these two is that the AMP is an open initiative, ensuring that AMP-enabled websites can also be embedded on other sites.

Second, as we have already mentioned above, web developers need to use a limited set of allowed technical features to create pages. Therefore, to use AMP, you need to develop an alternate version of your website, conforming to the rules and standards published by the AMP project. These specifications are a lot like regular HTML, but narrowed down to what Google’s engineers believe to be the bare minimum.

The core elements of Accelerated Mobile Pages are broken into three basic sections:

  • AMP HTML is actually a redesigned version of regular HTML, extended with custom AMP properties. Apart from some restrictions that ensure fast and reliable performance, AMP HTML also incorporates custom, AMP-specific tags that make it easier to facilitate the implementation of some common patterns.
  • AMP JS is a new JavaScript for mobile-friendly pages. To ensure fast page rendering, it offers AMP’s best performance practices, organizes resource loading and delivers the custom tags mentioned above.
  • AMP Cache is a proxy-based content delivery network that is supposed to deliver all valid AMP documents. Namely, it takes AMP HTML pages, caches them and optimizes page performance. It also has a built-in validation system that determines whether a particular page markup meets AMP HTML standards.

How can AMPs help your SEO Efforts?

What you need to keep in mind is that Google AMP is not a ranking signal. This was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller in a Google Hangout. Even though it isn’t a magic wand that directly boosts your rankings in SERP, there is a plethora of indirect factors that might significantly influence your SEO efforts. Here is how.

AMP boosts your site’s visibility

Just think about how much time and effort you have put into optimizing your website for search engines so far. The higher you rank in SERP, the more traffic your site will generate, right? That’s exactly where Google AMP comes to shine. As the carousel is located at the very top of the search feed, even above the sites listed in Google’s search result pages, it would significantly improve your website’s visibility and attract more users to it. At the SEJ Summit, Google’s Gary Illyes pointed out that 80% of publishers using AMP pages have been receiving more views.

Higher click-through rates

Better website transparency leads us to our next point: improved click-through rates. The AMP label will tell users that they won’t end up frustrated by poor website design and slow loading times. So, whenever they have the opportunity to choose between AMP-enabled and regular mobile-friendly pages, they will definitely go for the first one.

For instance, The Washington Post publishes roughly 1,000 articles in AMP a day. Now, some of their pages take only 400 milliseconds to load, which is a significant improvement when compared to their traditional mobile website. This is exactly what has made the Post’s readers click on their stories, knowing that the content will load instantly. As a result, AMP has improved their click-through rates by 50%.

Better mobile user experience= low bounce rate and high retention

The content in the carousel is displayed on a horizontal axis, giving users the opportunity to skim through it without having to click on each link individually. And, if they decide to read the entire article or view a certain product on your site, your AMP page will load almost immediately, which will significantly reduce bounce rate, boost overall user experience and, most importantly, improve user retention.

Let’s get back to the Post Example. Traditionally, 51% of mobile search users return to the site within seven days. However, according to Jarrod Dicker, head of ad products and technology, this number has jumped to 63% for users who read their stories in AMP.

Quick Tips on Creating AMP Design that Boosts Conversions

There are several crucial website features such as design, the navigation bar, speed and ads that help users judge a website in a few seconds. To boost your conversions and reduce bounce rate, you need to pay attention to the design of your AMP pages. Here are several crucial UX tips you should keep in mind:

  • Boost brand awareness in your AMP pages by using the same header and design schemes as in your non-AMP pages. This way, you will create a recognizable and authoritative brand.
  • Feature your engaging content. Include links from social media, as well as images, videos and other vital page elements.
  • Make your AMP pages relevant by updating your live blogs regularly with amp-live-list.
  • Offer interactive user experience on your AMP pages with rich image carousels, using the amp-carousel.
  • Customize your content by providing your readers recommendations with amp-list.
  • Create a menu with amp-sidebar to boost user experience.
  • Implement social sharing buttons with amp-social-share.
  • Encourage new interactions, such as newsletter signups, with amp-form.
  • Boost app downloads by offering an app install link in a banner with amp-app-banner.
  • Facilitate the transition to your non-AMP pages by populating your cache with amp-install-serviceworker.

To Wrap it Up

It doesn’t matter if you’re onboard with Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, one thing is certain - your users want speed. Furthermore, in Google’s ranking algorithm, page speed is an immensely important factor. The mere fact that Google has designed its own way of delivering content in a faster and more reliable way to both mobile and desktop users speaks of its desire to make this factor even more relevant when it comes to website ranking. By implementing AMP, you will boost your website visibility, deliver outstanding customer experience, reduce bounce rates and, most importantly, make your content available to a wider audience. By making all this possible, Google AMP will indirectly help you boost your brand authority and even rank higher in SERP.

Any thoughts on Google's AMP? Let us know in the comments!

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