Future of Accelerated Mobile Pages (Google AMP) in 2019

In a growing effort to provide better user experiences, Google continually encourages websites to adopt their open source library and standards – AMP. Google strongly cares about fast page load times and AMP is a solution to make it happen.

Photo by Yasmin Dangor (Unsplash)

AMP in 2019

We are 2 months away from 2019. Looking at search results, most sites still have not implemented AMP.

Are there consequences to not having AMP on a website?

The short answer is yes.

Google AMP provides some perks that you would otherwise be missing out on. Many websites are already taking advantage of what AMP has to offer.

One of the reasons AMP makes a positive impact is it increases click through rate through its distinct appearance in Google SERP. Another reason is it lets visitors render pages quickly — especially useful if the pages have large resources to load.

AMP is not only used primarily by news publishers anymore. In the past few years, more and more blogs and businesses have begun AMP-ing their websites.

As the AMP logo ⚡ is associated with near instant load times, many publishers are quickly catching on to adopt AMP in order to increase their click through rates and decrease bounce rates.

For WordPress websites, AMP plugins have improved where they can be easily added and are usually good enough to convert the entire website to AMP.

What is AMP?

Released by Google in 2015, the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project are a standard set of libraries that enforce publishers to follow a set of opinionated best practices.

One of the design principles of AMP is to “only do things if they can be made fast”. These libraries are optimized to load your site with very few compromises on speed in order to prioritize the user experience.

This means it handles an amazing set of built in features such as scripts loaded asynchronously, lazy loading images and components as you scroll, and utilizing a global CDN cache to serve your webpages.

Rather than relying on a single all-inclusive library, AMP ensures its components are extensible. The most commonly used core components are found in the main library. Everything else is put into their own AMP component, where they are explicitly declared in the head whenever used on the corresponding pages. The result is less bytes for users to download and fast page rendering.

For developers, AMP could be considered as a type of JavaScript framework. The AMP project decided that controls, such as preventing custom JavaScript from running and third-party libraries from being loaded, were necessary to make sites fast, simple, and reliable.

You certainly can still build a site that is optimized for speed without using AMP, but Google views valid AMP integration as a trust factor that a page will load hastily.

AMP-ing your site is entirely optional, but by following their standards and building an AMP version, Google rewards participating publishers by attaching a small grey lightning bolt icon in mobile search results — often leading to higher SERP click rates.

Example mobile search results with AMP implementations are shown above.
Example mobile search results for an AMP Story are shown above. AMP Stories also include a carousel icon.

Not only do pages receive “whatzit” icons (more on this later) for valid AMP structure, the pages indexed will also be served through the super-fast Google CDN.

Since popular websites are now utilizing AMP, most devices will already have the standard AMP libraries cached in their browser. This further reduces the time it takes between a user clicking on a search result and being able to see the content.

AMP was primarily designed to improve the mobile user experience. Thus far, AMP pages are only served on a mobile device. For tablet and desktop search results, only the canonical versions are returned.

As a technical side-note, you could use your AMP page as the canonical version by having a single responsive AMP version of each page for both desktop and mobile, and Google even encourages this.

What are the limitations to AMP?

In order to comply with valid AMP structure, you cannot run your own JavaScript nor load external libraries. For many developers, this reason alone is enough to shy away from AMP.

However, AMP intended for developers and creators to use the various AMP components to accomplish things rather than by accomplishing them through JavaScript. When paired with state management components, such as provided by amp-bind, there is enormous flexibility on what you can still do.

Can I use AMP if the content on my site is dynamically generated?

Indeed, if your website fetches data from an API to populate content, this can still be achieved even without JavaScript.

Amp-list was designed for this in mind. It consumes JSON data and adds DOM elements to the page (usually used together with amp-mustache).

AMP is also supported by many popular platforms that each have their own components such as Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and ad networks just to name a few. Integrating these components onto your page is non-trivial work.

What gives AMP a bad reputation among some in the web community?

Whether or not AMP is good for the future of the web is a hotly debated topic. The reasons people argue against adopting AMP are usually:

  • a standard AMP site can be more complex to build, especially when many useful open source libraries are unavailable.
  • sites will all start to look the same.
  • a search engine monopoly enforcing web standards is not a good thing. Giving advantages to those who adopt the standards will, over time, force people to build sites “the Google way” just to get ranked.

9 Reasons Why You Should Implement AMP

1. Page Speed

Improving the page load speed for your user. Users will appreciate fast loading sites, especially when they are on slower mobile connection speeds.

2. Responsive

AMP components already have responsive design in mind.

3. Mobile-first user experience

As mobile use increases, companies will be scrutinizing their mobile / AMP page more carefully to optimize for conversions.

4. AMP components

There is a long list of components available to use without having to worry about implementation details.

5. Fast growing

AMP is constantly growing and improving its features with emphasis on speed.

6. AMP Stories

Similar to Instagram Stories, an AMP Story is a unique format twist to view content.

7. “Whatzit”

The AMP ⚡ icon in Google mobile results provides a kind of “whatzit” — a term coined by Leil Lowdnes in her book How to Talk to Anyone. The basic premise of a “whatzit” is to entice curiosity. Suppose that a user sees several different article pages, and one of them has the AMP ⚡ icon. The one with the icon will catch their eye, maybe interest them, and naturally increases the likelihood that they will read the title and description — subsequently increasing the chances of a user’s initial visit.

8. Bing

Even Bing is adopting AMP.

9. Auto Validation

AMP validation is built right into the web — Google will let you know if your page is invalid during index time, but there are many other free tools to validate them yourselves before that occurs.

9 Reasons Against the Use of AMP

1. There is nothing wrong with non-AMP pages

You can build fast and beautiful sites without AMP — we have been doing so for decades!

2. You receive high traffic volume

Your site already ranks well and implementing AMP may provide little benefits.

3. Website already loads fast

You built a lean website using best practices.

4. You require a specific plugin or library

While AMP components contain the most widely used features, it may not contain that custom JS library necessary for your page.

5. Web development

If you want a specific look on your AMP page, a theme may not be available. You may just have to design it yourself, and if you have limited experience with CSS/HTML, then chances are that your site will look much cleaner and cross-compatible using a CSS/JS library.

6. Maintaining two codebases

Idealistically, no one wants to maintain both a non-AMP and an AMP version of their site.

7. Lack of control

You may be a creative designer who needs full access to the browser, or you may be against being dictated on what libraries to use and what rules to adhere to. Losing custom JavaScript really limits many cool things you can do… although there are workarounds such as with amp-iframe.

8. Authoritative trust

Google is a public company interested in revenue and profit. Can we trust Google not to leverage AMP for its own self interests in the future?

9. Web application

AMP is not in any way designed to be used with web applications.

Does AMP Increase My Google Rankings?

While it certainly will not decrease your rankings, Google has stated before that AMP is still not a ranking factor.

Nevertheless, most SEO agencies have experienced positive results to their page rankings — incidentally through increased user engagement and faster response times after adopting AMP.

Over the years, Google has also repeated that page speed will increasingly become a contributing factor. This July, Google rolled out a search algorithm update that is based on page load speeds on mobile devices. This update negatively impacted sites with load times exceeding a high threshold.

Adoption

Some large companies that have already adopted AMP are:

  • New York Times
  • South China Morning Post
  • Wall Street Journal
  • USA Today
  • Yahoo
  • Reddit
  • BMW

Should I Implement AMP?

If you make every effort to follow Google guidelines, should Google reward you? Probably.

However, there are countless ranking factors, and speed is just one of them.

If you have the resources and time to implement AMP, then yes, you probably should add it in, if you have not already.

Google keeps pushing new features into AMP, and there is no doubt that AMP will still be thriving in the future.

With AMP, your site will still be future-proof if Google one day decides to increase AMP’s ranking impact.

Every website is different however, and before doing anything, you should first analyze your website or business to see whether the time and effort will be worth it, and not just because everyone else is doing it.


Originally published at bravoka.io.