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