What is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Why You Need Them

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is an open-source project started by Google and adopted by other tech companies to make mobile pages load almost instantly.

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In this article, I will not get into the technical aspects of AMP but rather why AMP is important for business owners and marketers. If you are looking for technical specs, you can find the documentation in AMP Websites Guide & Tutorials.

Mobile Usage is on the Rise

Mobile device usage continues to grow year after year.  79% of Americans are online shoppers, and more than 50% of them used their mobile devices for making online purchases in 2019.

Consumer websites are reporting as much as 80% of their traffic coming through mobile devices.  Even B2B websites are seeing more mobile traffic. As the competition for mobile traffic intensifies, we need to do everything in our power to get an edge on the competition.  One of the most effective ways to improve mobile SEO and receive more organic traffic is by creating webpages that are totally optimized for mobile devices using Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP for short.

The Problem with Most Mobile Pages

Most web pages are built for desktop browsers. Sure, they are responsive meaning they will change to fit a mobile device screen, but the page sizes are usually very large with all the JavaScript code, tracking scripts, etc. and these pages can be very slow to load on mobile devices. There are also annoying popups and intrusive ads that can take up the entire mobile screen.  It is enough to make users abandon a page and leave the site.  

Fast-loading pages make for better user experience.  Google claims that a page built using AMP HTML can load up to an astonishing 85% faster when compared to the traditional, non-AMP version of that page.

Slow Loading Pages Means Lost Revenue

According to Google, over 53% of users will bounce or leave if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.  79% of users abandon sites with poor performance. And there is a 7% drop in revenue for every 1 second of delay a user experiences.

If you are spending a significant budget on paid or PPC ads, and your landing pages are not loading in less than 3 seconds on mobile devices, then you are losing over half of your mobile audience before they even see your landing page.  Another important factor for companies who buy PPC ads on Google Ads is that you can increase your overall Quality Score by having fast-loading pages.  Higher quality scores lead to a higher position for your PPC ads and a lower cost per click.

What is AMP?

The AMP Project  https://amp.dev/  was started by Google in 2015 as an open-source HTML framework to make mobile pages load faster. 

AMP restricts certain HTML functionality in favor of faster page load times.  It also uses the latest technologies like HTTP/2 and GPU acceleration to speed up page load times.  Google pre-renders and stores AMP pages on its servers. So, it can serve cached pages almost instantly to mobile devices no matter what the connection speed.  If you search for Top Stories on Google Chrome, the news cards that are shown are all built using AMP as denoted by the lightning bolt icon.

Simply put, AMP pages create a better user experience on mobile devices and are favored by both users and search engines.   

AMP is Getter Better Every Day

AMP was initially created to make news and blog articles load super-fast on mobile devices.  At the time, you could not create a full-featured web page with AMP. But soon, other tech companies like Bing, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and WordPress joined in, and support for AMP increased and so did its functionality.  As an open-source project AMP evolves very quickly.  When we first started creating pages with AMP just a few years ago, there was no support for photo sliders or animation of any kind. We are now seeing support for very sophisticated user interfaces such as Parallax Story Telling (https://amp-article.herokuapp.com/) Today, we can build interactive and dynamic websites with AMP.  As AMP evolves, more features are supported.  

Feb 2016: Google launches its Accelerated Mobile Pages project

Sep 2016: Google incorporates AMP into its search results

Aug 2017: AMP Ads complete phase 2 of development

Feb 2018: AMP Stories are introduced

Feb 2018: AMP Emails are introduced

Sep 2018: Microsoft began rolling out its own Bing AMP viewer and AMP cache.

Dec 2018: The Official WordPress Plugin is released                

Oct 2019: Google takes AMP to the OpenJS Foundation 

To find the latest on AMP development, follow the AMP blog

Who is Using AMP?

When AMP first launched, it was adopted by publishers.  Companies like The New York Times, CNBC, The Washington Post, Vox, Verge, Guardian, and literally every news portal is using AMP to make sure their stories get indexed by Google.

 According to a DoubleClick study, 80% of publishers reported higher view-ability rates after implementing AMP.  90% of publishers saw a higher engagement rate after adopting AMP. 

Any company interested in creating faster pages and better user experience is building AMP pages.  Companies like Twitter, Pinterest, Yahoo, Bing, eBay, and AliExpress. 

Twitter experienced a 10% drop in bounce rate on AMP pages compared to non-AMP pages.

AMP has quickly become the mobile standard used by e-commerce websites like eBay and AliExpress to gain speed and benefit from higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates.

Why You Need to Build Pages with AMP

If your website is already mobile-friendly, you may wonder why you need to build AMP pages.  The answer is simple.  More organic mobile traffic. Google wants to provide the best user experience for their users.  For mobile content, speed is a very important factor.  AMP was designed for speed.  Google’s search engine favors AMP pages over other types of mobile pages for mobile searches. When you search for a keyword phrase on Google on a mobile device, AMP pages generally rank higher.  If you are using Chrome, you will see a lightning bolt icon next to the page title of AMP pages.

If you are competing for high-search-volume keywords, all things being equal, creating AMP pages will help put you ahead of your competitors.

Accelerated Mobile Pages AMP vs Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Most modern websites are built on a “responsive” framework which means they will resize and rearrange the various components of a website to fit on different screen sizes. The website page sizes are the same whether the page is loaded on a desktop with a tethered broadband connection or if it is loaded on a slow cellular connection of a mobile device.  The problem with responsive sites has always been that they load too slowly on mobile devices.  

 If you depend on Google organic traffic, then you know that Page Speed is a ranking major factor. Here is a scenario that we face regularly:  We build web landing pages with great headlines, copy, images, video, call-action-etc. We make sure the pay is highly optimized for its target keyword.  We then check the page speed using Google PageSpeed Insights to make sure the page loads fast.  We test the load speed because we know that a slow-loading page will simply not rank.  We usually go through a couple of rounds of speed optimization, compressing images, videos, adding caching plugins, maybe updating the CDN, etc.  After all of the speed optimization work, we find that the desktop version of the site is now in the “green” but the mobile version is still in the red.  Only after writing an AMP version of the page, can we get it to be in the green.

.Responsive mobile pages may look great, but they are usually slow and will not rank well when they compete with their AMP counterparts.

Is AMP a Ranking Factor?

When AMP was first announced, Google representatives said that it was not a ranking factor.  However, webmasters and marketers have long suspected that it is, in fact, a ranking factor. Google’s Mobile-First indexing has been rolled out.  You may have received a notification stating that your site has been switched to Mobile-First indexing.   Google considers page speed as one of the most important ranking factors for mobile devices.  We know from our in-house tests that responsive mobile pages are much slower than AMP pages. So, it stands to reason that an AMP page will rank higher than a non-AMP page.

How to Build AMP Pages

If you built your website with WordPress, there are a few WordPress plugins that help convert existing pages to AMP pages.  Most of your blog pages will convert automatically with no additional work needed.  However, if you have more complex pages with sliders, videos, or animation, you will need to rebuild those pages using AMP components. You cannot use external CSS with AMP so you will lose some of the stylings that you had with your desktop site.  You will need to restyle the AMP pages. If you have an online store, you can find AMP plugins for the most popular shopping carts like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento and others. When you are done building your AMP pages, you can test and validate your AMP pages and fix any validation errors that are reported.   

A note on Google Analytics

You will want to measure the performance of your AMP pages and compare them to your non-AMP pages.  Google Analytics uses JavaScript and will not work with AMP pages.  You can add Analytics for AMP to measure page views and goal completions. 

AMP Pages by Navazon

Many developers are reluctant to create AMP pages, or they try but cannot correctly implement AMP pages.  At Navazon, we have been creating AMP pages since they were first introduced by Google in 2015.  Over time, we have learned the ins and outs of AMP pages and how to make them even faster by caching them correctly while keeping the site on our hosting platform, rather than on Google’s CDN.  Since 2018, we have been creating animated AMP Ads for the Google Display ad network.  These ads perform better than traditional ads on mobile devices and at a lower PPC cost. Contact us to discuss your AMP project. 

Jaclyn Uloth

Armed with over 10 years of experience in digital marketing, Jaclyn Uloth started her career at a full-service digital marketing firm for five years, guiding many websites to completion as well as developing and executing sophisticated marketing strategies for countless brands. More recently, she was in charge of digital, social media, and paid advertising efforts for well-known multinational franchise operations. Currently, she is using her years of experience and writing abilities to write marketing copy and blogs to boost the online presence of the brands she works with.

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