Should You Use Google’s AMP (& Will It Affect Your SEO?)

Is Google AMP Good For SEO?

There are many different metrics for SEO and many other metrics for a site to be even considered decent.

Perhaps the most commonly cited metric is “load speed.”

Search engines and visitors alike want, and perhaps demand, a fast loading site.

This is especially the case on mobile, where limited data packages demand lightness, and therefore fast, websites.

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is designed to speed up the mobile web and reduce the amount of data being needlessly used.

But the question most marketers have is “can it help with my rankings?”

What Is AMP?

Most modern webpages use a responsive design that is the same for both desktop and mobile, but the mobile version merely moulds itself to the screen resolution of the device you’re viewing it on.

Regardless of the device, every unoptimised image, every large JavaScript file, and every unnecessary element are loaded each time the website is viewed.

From a mobile data package point of view this is disastrous. Not only does this eat into the amount of data you have, but a lot of data connections are slow so the load time can be excruciatingly long.

The basic idea behind AMP is that you create streamlined web pages that remove the clutter that most websites have, and serve a lightweight, easily loaded version of the site.

Amp Mobile Demo
Original Source: Search Engine Land

The other key element of AMP is that this cut down version of your website is also hosted on Google’s own servers, thus leveraging the power of Google’s infrastructure for even faster loading.

Is AMP Good For SEO?

The biggest question marketers should have before jumping on the AMP bandwagon is, is there any benefit to SEO?

Will it help my site rank higher?

AMP, like any software, will have positives and negatives, so let’s check them out.

AMP Benefits

Speed

Speed is a paramount ranking factor for Google, so it comes as no surprise that an AMP powered site would likely rank higher.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the number of people visiting your site and then leaving after only viewing a single page.

Perhaps the number one reason people bounce off a site is due to the site loading slowly. With so many sources of information out there, it’s often easier to hit the back button on a slow loading site and go try the next result.

As such, the speed increases of AMP should also help to reduce potential bounce rate.

Conversions

This is a tricky one to analyse as there are many factors involved with conversion, but Hallam suggests there’s a correlation between site speed and conversion rates so it’s also possible that the faster loading site could convert better.

Visibility

Google has added a Top Stories carousel at the top of some mobile search results. The only way to get added into that carousel is to be a) relevant to the search query (of course), and b) have that page powered by AMP.

Getting to the top of the rankings, just by being relevant and AMP powered?

Sounds good right?

Of course, it’s not a guarantee, Google has its own complex rule set that decides what gets shown where, but AMP is will certainly increase your chances for showing up in the Top Stories on mobile.

Right now it seems that it’s mainly news outlets, that have fleeting content and are getting pushed into the carousel.

This might change in the future, so getting ahead of the curve and adding AMP now might give you a leg up later.

That being said, it might never change and it may only feature top publishers, and not smaller publishers.

AMP Negatives

Not All Sites Will Benefit

If you’ve already tuned your site to be lightning fast on mobile, then the likelihood that AMP will benefit you is low.

Remember that the key purpose of AMP is to speed up the mobile web, so by adding AMP to an already fast site you’re simply wasting your resources. It’s possible that AMP might further speed up your fast site even further, but unless you have resources (time and money) available to throw at it, it seems an unwise endeavour.

Time

There are plugins out there that can assist with making WordPress sites AMP ready (more on this later), but they are not perfect and they still require a lot of work in setting them up.

As well as that, there’s no substitute for manually converting your posts and pages into AMP ready content. But that will take time and effort, and possibly money if you’re not technically minded.

Moz did a study on AMP back in November 2017 and they hand crafted an AMP template, which took them (likely with a decent development team) 40 hours to prepare.

Sure, the template can be reused, but if you have multiple styles of articles, it could get costly in time/money quickly.

Functionality Loss

AMP uses a modified version of HTML, and CSS use has certain restrictions.

JavaScript is highly restricted, in fact you can’t use any “author-written JavaScript” you can only use special AMP elements.

This means that if you use JS for anything fancy on your site such as transitions, pop ups, hidden content, social etc. then say good bye to it.

This also includes analytics, though AMP provides an analytics system that can be hooked into numerous third-party systems like Clicky and Google Analytics.

Control

Finally, and perhaps importantly, do you want your content to be at the mercy of Google?

I’m sure you’re thinking that it already is, what with the regular animal powered search algorithm updates!

Still, your content won’t be served from your host anymore; it will be cached on Google’s servers.

Yes there is a link back to your site at the top, and internal links will go to your site unless they too are AMP ready, but the default URL in the web browser is Google.com.

Keep in mind that some sites are completely hosted via AMP too.

For a deeper understanding on how Google treats these pages, watch this video:

You might not care, but if you feel that Google already controls enough of the web/your life, then handing more control to them might make you think twice.

Full AMP Isn’t Needed

One way to counter the costs on handling an AMP integration, and also perhaps to test it out, is to only change certain pieces of content to work with AMP.

Realistically, there’s no point adding AMP integration to pages that receive no traffic, or static pages like your privacy policy.

Your home page is a possibility, but likely it will be key articles such as pillar articles or money articles that will need the AMP treatment, at least at the beginning.

AMP for WordPress

There’s a bunch of WordPress plugins out there that say they can turn your site into an AMP powered site.

The top two by downloads would be:

AMP for WordPress – which has been created by WordPress.com VIP, XWP and Google. 300,000+ installs but a mere 3.5 out of 5 rating.

AMP for WP – by Ahmed and Mohammed Kaludi. 100,000+ installs but a solid 4.5 rating.

AMP for WordPress Plugin

This plugin is pretty much a set it and forget it style of plugin and it uses either templates designed by the theme you’re using or generic templates. The options are limited to setting it for posts, pages or other post types.

AMP for WP Plugin

A much more feature heavy plugin, with a wide vary of options to fine tune the look and feel of your AMP pages.

Some features such as adverts, contact form support, ecommerce support, etc. are only available in the premium version which is not cheap at $149 for a single site licence.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that AMP can help with SEO on mobile by increasing page speed and help you to appear in the Top Stories mobile carousel, but it has drawbacks that may make you want to consider carefully before joining in.

If you already have a fast loading site on mobile, using AMP might be a waste of your resources, after all AMP is there to speed up the web.

Also, if the bulk of your visitors are arriving on desktop, it may be pointless to implement AMP as its mobile only.

That being said, if you’re struggling to get your loading speed on mobile down to a reasonable level, and you don’t mind losing some functionality, AMP might be the key to your success on mobile.

14 thoughts on “Should You Use Google’s AMP (& Will It Affect Your SEO?)”

  1. I believe AMP does not work well with Mediavine for example, as I inquired about that when I was considering going to AMP. Most of my traffic is from mobile, but I still decided not to go with AMP for many of the same reasons you have here in your article.

    I have already optimized my site for speed and have a fast host so I felt the overall advantages , if any, were not enough to warrant going with AMP.

    1. Yeah there’s no real benefits I can see with AMP if you already have a fast mobile site. After all the idea of AMP is to speed up the mobile web, so if your site is already fast, the benefits just aren’t there. And re MediaVine, I haven’t tested it out myself, but I can imagine it being problematic what with AMP’s reduced JavaScript usage.

  2. Thanks for the in depth info on Amp. Out of principal, I won’t have anything to do with it on my sites. Also, I avoid sites that use it.

    As far as I’m concerned, AMP is just a way to circumvent ad blockers on mobile devices and to give G more intrusive access to your website.

    One of the pillars of my business model is to completely bypass any involvement with G. I rely on nothing they produce.

  3. I tried AMP on my site using a WordPress plugin – AMP for WP and from beginning to end I found it a headache. It’s quite complex to set up and there is a lack of information on how to configure the plugin properly. And pretty much from the beginning Google Search Console complained about the AMP pages not matching my normal web pages – I had no idea why that would be, except I suspected that by updating my content pages, these pages were not automatically sent across to the AMP pages – thanks to your article I now suspect because they were hosted on Google servers. Even once I had decided to be rid of the AMP pages, it is quite a process to get them de-indexed and removed and now months later I am still getting errors on Google due to those pages. To cap it all they did zero for my rankings over all. My view is unless your site is really slow on mobile and you have to time to battle with the Amp plugin don’t. Spend the time getting your site better on mobile.

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for sharing your experiences. Yeah, AMP can be complicated to set up and if your site is already performing well on mobile it doesn’t make sense to use it.

  4. Hi Dean,

    Thank you for your insightful review of whether of not using AMP. I just made a blog purely in AMP compliance. ( https://www.inspirasi.org/ ) for learning more how it will go and how much it might benefit me. But I have a big concern regarding AMP implementation regarding to amazon affiliate site;

    How does Amazon treat sites that are in amp format, since the referral link that leads to amazon does not come from our amazon affiliate site but (may be) from google cache (which is hosted by google)?

    Will it be a problem and lead to amazon associate account banned? Because google is not in our list of sites of our own where we are allowed to place affiliate links on? As Amazon’s term of service says.

    I hope I make my self clear with my question.
    Cheers

    1. Hi,

      Very good question.

      Based on Amazon’s terms the only issue with Search Engine’s is that if the customer is referred via a link on a search engine it will be disqualified. There’s nothing to say that this will get you banned. Terms screenshot http://take.ms/hMQ2I

      Based on an excellent article over at Search Engine Land (https://searchengineland.com/amp-links-large-281987) the referring URL is either going to be the base URL, the AMP project’s CDN URL or Google’s URL that contains the AMP text.

      It should be easy for Amazon to check for and allow affiliate links from AMP related URLS as they all contain AMP in them somewhere. However, whether they bother checking for these is something only Amazon know and as far as I can tell they haven’t discussed it.

      If AMP does get more widespread in that more than just top tier publishers end up in the AMP results, then this could be a problem. Based on my limited research, so if you know more please tell, there are no affiliate or ecommerce style sites being listed in AMP results. As such the issue is kind of moot right now. Should more and more sites with Amazon links end up in AMP results, then Amazon would have to sit up and take notice, if they haven’t already.

      So to summarise, right now I don’t think it’s a concern, but if only Amazon can advise of their stance on this.

      Hope that helps!

  5. As every coin has two sides Google’s AMP also has its own merits and demerits. And you have perfectly bifurcated them with the best explanation. It is a nice piece of information. Thanks for the share Dean.

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