Modern web users are mobile. They prefer to have their content like they do with coffee – on the go.
Whether it’s due to laptops or mobile devices, the dynamics of the modern world are pushing the web to follow suit and provide increasingly faster solutions.
And the numbers are just confirming it. As of November 2016, mobile web usage has officially overtaken desktop worldwide. Such an accelerated environment means user expectations are growing. And with the average attention span constantly decreasing, it’s no surprise that they want web pages to load in under 3 seconds on their smartphones (data by Soasta). Also, 48% of smartphone users will not return to a site that performs poorly.
As a response, the big players took steps. A joint effort backed and spearheaded by Google resulted in the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project.
What is AMP and How it Works
The AMP Project is an open-source framework created to assist developers in building fast mobile pages with static content. As of February 2016, AMP marked pages were shown to users in mobile search results.
AMP eliminates all the non-essential elements to focus on functionality and speed. That way Google can pre-render and instantly load web pages. Also, AMP is now smart enough to detect elements that matter. It’s now increasingly supporting mobile ads and integrates better with both search and display ads.
Essentially, AMP “slims down“ web pages, caches them into Google’s CDN making load times significantly faster.
There are 3 core components:
- AMP Caches – relies on Google’s CDN to serve and validate AMP pages
Note that most AMP pages are served from Google’s AMP cache, although other companies are supporting AMP Cache too. Google also reports that AMP Pages shown in their search results take less than one second to load and use 10x fewer data than same non-AMP pages.
Here’s the official AMP implementation guide.
The Adoption of AMP
The AMP Project was publicly announced back in October 2015 as a result of discussions about improving the performance of the mobile web. The project was brought forward by Google, the European Digital News Initiative (DNI), and over 30 news publishers and several technology companies including Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and WordPress.
As of July 2017, the AMP Project listed some 120 advertising companies and 30 analytics companies as participants.
Throughout various industries, AMPs are now quite adopted:
- Search Engines: Google, Bing, Baidu (China), Sogu (China), Yahoo Japan.
- Social Platforms: Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Nuzzle, Tencent Qzone (China), Weibo (China).
- Content Publishing Platforms: WordPress, Medium, Canvas, Drupal, Squarespace and Tumblr.
- eCommerce Platforms: eBay, SnapDeal (India), AliExpress (China).
The Pros and Cons
The general stance and overall hype suggest that AMP is “the way to go”. However, prior to its implementation, there are some Pros and Cons to consider.
- Reduces website load time
By eliminating non-essential elements, AMPs are thin, lean and really fast. It makes users enjoy pages that don’t make them wait, meaning there’s a higher chance that AMPs will bring in more visitors.
- Boosts mobile ranking
Google clearly stated that AMP is not a ranking factor by itself. However, page speed is. It means AMP has a secondary positive influence on mobile ranking as it makes pages faster. Also, keep in mind that it’s a Google-backed project. In the future, it might have an even stronger influence on SERPs.
- Improves server performance
Since AMP contents are pre-fetched, it reduces the load from your servers. If your site generates a lot of traffic from mobile sources, AMP will help improve their performance.
- Positions you better for the future
As Google is pushing their mobile-first agenda, keeping up with their suggested practices can only boost your status. Since it appears they’re pushing towards making AMP the standard for the mobile web, getting to know it early can only benefit you in the long run.
- Eliminates dynamic features
The primary downside with AMPs is that they only work with static content. And imposes a lot of HTML, CSS and JS limitations. For example, AMP pages won’t work with geo-targeting or with random number generators. This can diminish the UX on pages built for more user interactivity.
- Reduces ad revenue
Though the AMP Project officially supports ads, it’s not all that easy to implement them on AMP pages. Means that the potential to bring in revenue is still a bit limited. However, it’s important to mention that Google took major steps to improve this. As of recently it’s rolling out AMP Ads and announced even more ad integrations.
- Strips analytics
In order to get Google Analytics, a new tag needs to be implemented on all AMP pages. To avoid investing too much time and efforts to place the tag and collect and analyze data, AMP plugins are recommended. Keep in mind that they might conflict with other plugins. Here’s a comprehensive guide to doing it right.
- Puts Google in control
Google places its AMP Cache between your server and end-users. In other words, they have complete control. Although they insist AMP was created as a completely independent collaborative industry initiative, some publishers and industry observers expressed concerns about Google’s role and motives. The main concern is that Google will use it to shape the way the mobile web works to their interests. Meaning that publishers fear they could lose control over distribution, thus risking monetization flows from methods like display ads.
Does Your Site Need AMP?
When we look at the big picture, we see that the web is clearly switching to mobile. Means that embracing it and adapting accordingly is certainly something you should do. However, if your site is fairly light, doesn’t serve rich content, is responsive and loads fast, then AMPs probably won’t bring all that much to the table.
On the other hand, if the majority of your traffic comes from mobile, then it’s definitely something that you should at least consider testing, if not implementing right away. If you’re going with AMPs, here’s the official guide.
The AMP Project is now in its maturing phase, and it keeps growing since it’s not as proprietary as Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. Therefore, it makes it easier for publishers and developers to integrate the tech into their businesses, meaning it still has a lot of room to further evolve. If you add up the fact the Google is promoting it as a new standard, it is safe to assume it won’t go anywhere soon.
Whatever your specific business case dictates you do, the smartest thing is to get to know it closely and follow its development. That way the transition will be painless and your performance and ranking won’t suffer.
If you would like to know more about AMP, mobile optimization and web performance, you can always talk to one of our in-house GlobalDots experts. They can help you with anything web performance and security related.