13. AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages

With Barry, Gerry, Dawn and Will.

Barry Adams – Founder Polemic Digital
Yeah, Google AMP is one of those topics that SEOs like to moan about, because it is a very divisive topic at the moment. Do you implement Google AMP for your website or not? What I think: it comes down to the fundamentals of why Google introduced AMP in the first place. Which is to enable an experience similar to that of native apps in a mobile browser. So that it has the speed and interactivity of native apps but you are still working in a web-environment.

That’s what Google was trying to do when it first introduced AMP as a competitor to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News Articles. And now they are trying to see if they can expand the realm of AMP beyond just news into other scenarios, brochure websites and ecommerce websites.

I think in 2017 it’s going to be a “make or break” year for AMP. To see if it can expand beyond the publishing niche – where it has proven to be very successful – and if there is a sufficient adoption for Google to start preferring AMP Pages in the mobile search results over normal optimized pages.

Gerry White – SEO Consultant Just Eat
Absolutely. I mean, one of the things we spotted is that Google are really really pushing it, a lot more than ever before for pages – all pages, basically. I mean, we’ve had interesting conversations on Twitter about it.

Basically, the guys behind it, as I was saying, they will do pretty much everything soon. I still don’t see it as the wide solution. What I’m getting at is it’s often a solution for a problem that shouldn’t exist. You should be up to kind of optimize your pages on the platform that they’re on. Not necessarily have to host them somewhere else. So you can’t do personalization, you can’t do link building stuff as a result, tweeting a page will actually tweet the wrong URL.

So there is lots of tiny issues. There are solutions, but it doesn’t feel like we’re quite there yet. And one of the issues we were talking about, is the fact that if you’re on a AMP Page, your Analytics is different to the main site. So you almost got like two separate Analytics packages. You can’t consulate easily and so you can’t join the true path of the visitor. So suddenly you’re not able to truly understand what your user is doing across your web properties as easily.

Dawn Anderson – Director Move It Marketing
I think a lot of people misunderstand them. In that they don’t fully appreciate that actually it is an open-source project, to start with. We see a lot of people, constantly tweeting “Oh, it’s a proprietary code, et cetera.

Sure, Google are big drivers of it. But we’ve seem to forget that there are 30odd other organizations that are pushing this as a potential solution to fixing what is a “broken mobile web”. I think it’s something like 70odd % now of search queries are coming from mobile. Mobile is definitely the future of the internet, if you like.

And solutions are needed because, unfortunately, developers getting fancier and fancier, they want to throw JavaScript to everything. And we have these awful experiences on mobile where things don’t convert, people abandon pages, people start to install AdBlockers. Clearly Google… sure, it helps them with their modell, they need to sell ads, et cetera. And if people are installing AdBlockers because their experience on mobile is horrific than they have to do something about it.

So I can’t blame them for going out there and pulling together this conglomeration of collaborational publishers and CRM organizations, et cetera. I think it’s definitely not there yet. They kept the scope of the project very narrow to be able to get started with things. But now we can see that things are coming through all the time. Again, I follow the AMP project on github and have all the notifications coming through. And progress is accelerating.

Will Critchlow – CEO & Co-Founder Distilled
I’m a big fan of the objectives of it. I think you’re saving the publishing industry from themselves. The fact they build this monolithic, horrible – 16 megabytes to download a single news-story horrific – experiences. Sure, let’s save them from that. Let’s do this. I love the objectives. I dislike both sides of the implementation.

Both because I think it’s too critical. There is the open-source bit, as in “How to build your own AMP pages” which I dislike mainly because, to my mind, it’s kind of a step backwards. They are on different URLs, you’re almost back to the end of m.mobile site. And I kind of feel like, actually, we were just making progress towards URLs being unique and singular and this is a step backwards in my mind.

Whereas I actually like the HTML of it, in a sense. And then you got the other bit, which is proprietary. The hosted cache and all that stuff. And I don’t actually mind the idea, that you create these cache-able modules that can be hosted off-site.

Dawn Anderson
But then you got Cloudflare, who are starting to build their own AMP-cache.

Will Critchlow
I don’t mind the cache-part because I think that’s just very sensible. Serve it from close to the user. But it’s particularly Google’s implementation of it that upsets a lot of people. When you have the counter-sell part and you click through and it’s all contained within an iframe and Google is trying to own that user experience. And they are keeping their own bar at the top and it’s their URL and it’s just a lot of things on there that rub people up the wrong way.

And I think that damages the project as a whole. And in our experience – so we’ve run tests on this stuff – and we all know some of the success stories of the major news publishers who are getting tons of traffic. If you can get into the carousel, clearly worth it. That is just bonus traffic. That’s just traffic you weren’t going to get any other way.

And there is just no way of getting in there without an AMP page. It’s not about having a fast enough mobile site. Literally AMP is the ranking factor. What we haven’t seen is any benefit. We’ve not managed to isolate a single test where you get a benefit over having a good mobile site from having an AMP page in the regular search results. So if you’re not a news publisher, currently, not a ranking factor.

Gerry White
But if you get the little lightning bulb that is attached to the AMP pages. Isn’t that gonna encourage people to click on it? Because I certainly do it.

Dawn Anderson
We haven’t isolated the fact that people still don’t fully understand what it means. We do, because we are all in SEO, so we obsess on such things, but the average human user….

Will Critchlow
We have been running those tests. But so far, we haven’t measured that.

Gerry White
The other thing that they have kept very quiet about, is that, if you are an app-first company – and there are many many companies out there who kind of got app indexation – it overrides it. You can’t actually have AMP and app indexation at the same time for Android devices.

And that’s kept really hidden in fact. When we kind of questioned it, when we first heard about it, people on Google were like “Is that true?” and it was one of those interesting conversations. There are so many kind of caveats with it, and you have got be so careful. It isn’t as limited as it was when it first came out but it’s certainly something.

Dawn Anderson
I don’t think it will continue to really be developed.

Gerry White

Dawn Anderson
Their roadmap is really good, actually.

Barry Adams
One of the things I find interesting is when I saw a presentation that the Google engineering team gave to one of my clients about the roadmap for AMP, they also included progressive web apps in that particular presentation. And I see a sort of merger when it comes to technologies later down the line. Again, to provide that native experience in the browser.

If I can add one more thing on AMP being open-source, though, I don’t necessarily agree that AMP is a true open-source project. Technically, it is open-source but everything is committed to the GitHub has to be approved by the TechLead of AMP and that is always a Google employee. So it is a Google project in all but name. Let’s not kid ourselves about that.

Dawn Anderson
Well, we could argue that about a lot of things. We could say that Linux was not open-source, but from that we got the likes of all the different PHP platforms. We got WordPress, we got lots of organizations that commercialized open-source offerings in the end. So, who knows where it’s going to go as it gets picked up by more developers, in the future.

Barry Adams
So, is there a solution?

Dawn Anderson
I don’t think it’s there yet.

Gerry White
I think if Google could actually use their browser and sort of say “You know what, we keep your URL, we keep your data, we allow you to track and integrate the data properly. We will be basically a lot more strict about what you can and what you can’t do. But we allow you to keep it on your own site. At least from the user experiences we allow you to keep your own data properly connected”.

Will Critchlow
URLs. If we can have one thing.

Gerry White
One thing, yeah.

Will Critchlow

Gerry White
Yes. Agreed.

Juan Gonzalez – SISTRIX
Nice. Let’s finish with that. Thank you very much.