What is Google AMP and How Is It Affecting Webpage Development?

Mobile search surpassed desktop search for the first time in 2015, and in the same year Google announced an open-source project called AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) meant to improve the mobile web by allowing mobile website content to render nearly instantly. AMP is a framework to create a bare-bones version of a site’s pages, essentially stripping out any custom JavaScript, most CSS, widgets, scripts, and other add-ons.

The premise is that faster load times lead to more time on site and better engagement, which means reduced bounce rates, higher conversions, and increased search rankings. Sounds great, right? Let’s dive in to learn more about some of the benefits and challenges of using AMP.

Reasons to use AMP

The hype is real. AMP pages are lightning fast, typically loading much faster than most regular web pages. Yes, there are many other ways to make your pages fast. Controversy aside, when you click on an AMP page from Google Search it loads instantly and this makes it very good at providing a consistent user experience. For slower cellular networks this is especially important where typical web pages can take ages to load.

For prominence in search, AMP results appear in the top stories carousel above all other results in Google. This carousel is horizontal, allowing users to scroll side-to-side through the results without having to scroll down. But like any other search feature, Google may decide to change and the AMP carousel may not be around forever.

While AMP pages may not be directly connected to better rankings, Google has hinted in the past that AMP might one day become a search ranking signal.

Downsides and challenges of using AMP

Analytics Complications
Surprisingly, tracking from AMP is not as easy as you might expect. It takes special effort and resources. For starters, AMP does not support JavaScript by default which includes Google Analytics. If you already use Google Analytics on your site and decide to use AMP, you will need to set up a different tag and implement across all AMP pages. While basic metrics like visitors and engagement will be available, you won’t have the same data that you would from a standard Google Analytics implementation.

AMP isn’t a new type of technology to make your pages lightning fast. What it does is serve up pre-loaded cached versions of your AMP-enabled pages whenever visitors access them. The pages that appear in search results are housed by Google, which means that you’re showing a cached version of your content. For some, it’s a thorny subject to have their content so reliant on Google.

Ads and Conversions
While AMP pages load quickly, external content on the page is likely to lag behind. This can be a problem when it comes to hosting advertisements, as visitors are likely to scroll past an ad before it has a chance to load which can destroy any chance at conversion. Additionally, AMP only supports limited types of ad formats.

Certainly, there are many other pros and cons of using AMP. Overall, the effectiveness comes down to how well it is implemented and proper implementation takes time for analytics setup and for page optimization. For example, Google excludes pages from the AMP carousel if the content on the AMP page is not substantially similar to the corresponding responsive mobile page.

For Keen, we’ll be watching closely to see how attempts to speed up the web challenge developers with their approach analytics and data. We’d like to hear from you; what has been your experience with AMP so far?