Ever wondered what that little lightning bolt symbol is?
AMP stands for “Accelerated Mobile Pages.” Introduced in 2015, Google AMP is their open-source collaborative project to speed up loading of mobile web pages.
Google AMP pages are often the highest ranking results on the first page of search. They’re even more common in Google News.
Nearly 60 percent of all searches are done on mobile devices. To compensate for the shift, Google AMP pages prioritize the user experience of mobile users.
Perhaps the most important factor in ranking is load speed x relevance (SEO). Faster loading requires your WordPress site to be cached, which can be done with plugins. However, Google wanted to address the fact that more Americans are consuming their news on mobile devices. This meant using HTML and CSS of individual posts to rank rather than relying on SEO strategies.
The credibility of content ranking is another concern considering the Russian fake news scandal to strategically target voters in key geographic areas. It showed the vulnerability of Google and Facebook. Essentially, anybody can broadcast a false or illegitimate idea on a web page and still rank in the top 3 as long as it’s in Google AMP format.
Take for example the widely respected newspaper The Guardian’s coverage of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Their reporting would rank high next to “RT” in Google News — a 100-percent Russian government-funded media outlet that is classified as propaganda by the Columbia Journalism Review.
This is unfortunate for Google and their News platform, used by 15 percent of American adults as their primary source of news. Although a little more than 1/10 of Americans get their news from Google, 42 percent get their news from Facebook.
If a false article were to be shared on social media and gain traction, it would create a dangerous misinformation feedback loop — which happened far too often last year.
Google Prioritizes Content, Not Creators
AMP takes content ownership away from its creator as a sacrifice in order to rank in the top 3. This is because AMP content is displayed on pages that have no branding and the URL in the address bar shows that Google.com is the root domain. Critics like The Register’s Scott Gilbertson say Google doesn’t care about creators, it just wants content and actively negates users from visiting your site.
As you can imagine, this is a mess for your analytics, with the only metrics available to you for AMP content being whatever limited insights Google provides.
AMP Pages Load ‘Too’ Fast
Pages that load fast automatically rank higher. However, AMP pages actually load too fast for marketers. Ads aren’t loading as fast as the text which is causing users to scroll past them, rendering retargeting campaigns useless.
“The aim of AMP is to load content first and ads second,” said a Google spokesperson. “But we are working on making ads faster. It takes quite a bit of the ecosystem to get on board with the notion that speed is important for ads, just as it is for content.”
This is another downside for marketers. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal:
“For some publishers [preference for AMP in search results] is a problem, since their AMP pages do not currently generate advertising revenue at the same rate as their full mobile sites. Multiple publishers said an AMP pageview currently generates around half as much revenue as a pageview on their full mobile websites. That’s largely because of limitations related to the types of ad units AMP pages will allow and the ad technology providers that are currently integrated with the platform, those publishers say.”
Publishers Have No Choice but to Comply
This month, Google acquired Relay Media, a startup launched by an ex-Googler that converts web pages into AMP format.
“We’re excited to announce that Google has acquired Relay Media’s AMP Converter technology,” Google released in a statement. “Services for current customers will continue uninterrupted as we transition the Relay Media AMP Converter to Google’s infrastructure.”
Google has no plans to back down from overhauling the browser’s inevitable shift to AMP format. This is largely because it’s in their best interest in the long term. This the fastest page load speed on mobile is vital for Google to retain their title as the most popular search engine.
Still a Positive for Marketers
Google needs to address slow load speeds for on-page ads, which they are seeking to correct. Although Google AMP pages are still a win for marketers who retarget leads as part of their inbound marketing. AMP pages are still a crowd-sourced collaborative project and increasingly aligning with the interests of publishers, advertisers, and users.
One feature that is sure to be well-received is the curtailing of ad blockers on mobile devices. This is because third-party applications slow down the loading of AMP pages. Therefore, users will inevitably turn their ad blockers off.