Do you know what AMP is? It is the latest thing for page speed and maybe even rankings. It’s a little technical, but if you are in tech, you need to understand it. Ready? Let’s go.
AMP is a project designed to make web advertising more effective, to give more autonomy and better tools to publishers, and to create a better user experience online, especially for the mobile web. The aim of the project is to build an open source, more sustainable online ecosystem where users will find better content and publishers will maximize their reach regardless of what apps (if any) are being used to access content. This standardized approach to online publishing is set to improve speed above all else since it is so closely ties to both positive user experience and monetization, so the impact of AMP is likely to be tremendous.
The problem: user experience and speed
More and more media consumers want to access media using smartphones and through social media. This means that a huge chunk of consumers won’t be visiting a publisher website to find the content they’re looking for (they can find what they need right on the social site or in a preview). Unfortunately many of this publisher sites also have a poorer experience for many users since the mobile web can be exasperatingly slow. For this reason, improving the mobile web experience and enhancing the online ecosystem is a major priority for publishers.
This is the context that has given rise to the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project. AMP and AMP HTML are Google’s answer to improving speed, distribution, and customer experience online. The overall goal of AMP is to ensure that publishers and all other businesses can create beautiful, flexible, fast content to speed up the media consumption process. AMP also has as its goal more effective advertising which can only be achieved when the entire process is faster; this will in turn maintain revenue streams and support publishers as they create new, useful content.
What is AMP and how does it work?
AMP is basically a new system for making and optimizing web pages that render quickly. It is made up of three separate technical parts: AMP HTML, AMP JS, and AMP CDN.
AMP HTML. AMP HTML is basic HTML with certain extensions and restrictions. The extensions allow users to start with basic HTML and then go beyond it to create richer content. The restrictions are designed to ensure reliable performance. The end result of using AMP HTML to build web pages is that the pages will be fully optimized for fast loading and use on mobile devices without sacrificing aesthetically pleasing, appealing content or predictable performance and smart caching.
Significantly, AMP HTML is based on existing technical norms of the web. In practice this means most tags in the content on an AMP HTML page are typical HTML tags, and a certain number of existing HTML tags are replaced with customer AMP HTML components, tags which are AMP-specific. The use of AMP HTML components will ensure that web pages share common patterns that perform well and that publishers can continue to create and host their own content while improving user experiences and integrating existing advertising techniques.
AMP JS. AMP JS is a library that contains all AMP HTML components and AMP best performance enhancing practices. It is therefore a resource that can allow publishers to build their pages using AMP best practices and tags, all optimized for mobile speed. Some ways that the AMP library optimizes are:
- The system makes anything that originates from external resources asynchronous; this means that nothing will prevent any page element from rendering quickly.
- All iframes are subject to “sandboxing”; this means that things from outside the page like widgets, ads, etc. are limited, preventing them from interfering with the intended features of the site. Only what is completely necessary to your page’s function will run.
- The layout of every element on your page is pre-calculated before resources are loaded; this way the browser calculates what’s visible, what isn’t, and where visible stuff goes on the page so that no effort is wasted.
- When certain CSS selectors on your page are running slow, the AMP system disables them.
AMP CDN. Finally, the AMP content delivery network (CDN) is a proxy-based system of distributed servers that deliver content and pages to users based on user geographic location and the webpage’s origin. It fetches pages with AMP HTML in them, caches them, and automatically improves page performance. The AMP CDN also means that all images, JS files, and documents come from the same place which doesn’t depend on external resources to function.
Those three technical parts of the AMP system are in practice designed to work in four key areas: advertising, analytics, content format innovation, and subscriptions.
Advertising. AMP’s advertising roadmap includes ads that can automatically resize, faster ads, integration with some sponsored content providers and data management providers, and support for viewability. Many publishers and advertising companies have already announce their intention to use and support AMP.
Analytics. As you might guess with any Google project, analytics are a huge part of the AMP offering. The emphasis is on a richer analytics framework. Several analytics partners are currently testing the function of analytics tools in AMP and creating AMP versions of their own tools, including Adobe Analytics, Chartbeat, ClickTale, comScore, Google Analytics, Nielsen, and Parse.ly.
Content format innovation. New and enhanced components in AMP include: AMP iframe which offers resizing capability; AMP templates to enhance onward journey performance by dynamically fetching fresh content; and AMP click-to-play within iframes which enables a rich experience to follow user interactions. For example, Vine has created an AMP vine embed component.
Subscriptions. AMP will cover subscription access and paywall metering for subscribers of various sites.
Practical impact of AMP and Timeline
Google indicates that the Google search engine will likely integrate AMP pages in February 2016. This means that AMP pages may well receive a boost in search engine rank, and perhaps even a “fast” label; this latter designation could work much like the “mobile-friendly” label.
Also, on the CRO side, faster pages mean better conversion rates. One of the top reasons people do not convert is page speed.
While AMP is not the only way to speed up your page, it is likely to be an important one. Given that Google has emphasized the important role speed plays in search engine ranking, it is likely that AMP pages will experience a major advantage.
The AMP Developer Preview took place in early October of 2015, and the technical details of AMP have been changed many times since then. As noted, Google will implement AMP in its search engine as early as late February, 2016. WordPress has announced that it will support AMP pages even sooner, starting in January, 2015. Social media and messaging platforms LINE, Pinterest, Tango, Twitter, and Viber all intend to link to AMP content in early 2016. Analytics and CMS companies Chartbeat, comScore, Google Analytics, and Parse.ly also intend to support AMP by late February.
There are several takeaways to note here:
- AMP’s list of new platforms, publishers, and technology partners will continue to grow in the coming weeks. We can also expect to see specific launch dates and plans of supporting platforms soon.
- Tools for creating AMP pages are already available, and it is a smart idea to start using them now.
- Expect to see AMP pages being used by large media outlets, and note improved speed. We can expect to see Google listing news articles and other content on AMP pages more favorably.
AMP is a powerful tool for improving SEO as well as overall user experience and CRO. The presence and speed of AMP pages will change how search engines rank websites, and this is going to be a permanent change. Now is the time to start educating yourself about AMP.