The pros and cons of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Are you patient?

You probably think you are, at least more patient than expecting information at your fingertips within seconds – but even if you think you have the patience of a saint – you’re probably wrong.

Dozens of studies into webpage load times show we’re actually extremely impatient – and in reality, most of us will abandon a site if the page we’re heading for takes more than 4 seconds to load.

So what’s the answer?

Well, Google and Twitter think it’s AMP – or, to give it’s full name, Accelerated Mobile Pages. An open source plug-in project that’s designed to create mobile pages that load ultra-quickly.

What could possibly be the downside of that? Well, a cruise ship doesn’t move as quickly as a speedboat – and if you ever wanted it to, you’d need to strip a lot of stuff out. The same is true of AMP. Along with a few members of the Think Zap team, who are some of Scotland’s leading web design talents. We’ll have a look at what it is – and the pros and cons of implementing accelerated mobile pages across your site.

What exactly is AMP?

In the most-simple terms, AMP is like ‘HTML lite’ – that’s to say, a stripped-down version of ordinary HTML – creating pages that load virtually instantly. It’s underpinned by three main components:

  • AMP HTML

A standard HTML that works by encompassing a variety of web components.

  • AMP JavaScript

Designed to manage all resource loading

  • AMP Caching

Designed to serve and validate AMP page

Mobile traffic now represents the majority of traffic that will hit your site – and AMP seemingly caters for these users perfectly, delivering just the most important content. Interestingly, it appears the AMP project was a direct response to the Facebook Instant and Apple News – although AMP is open source, removing the ties to any one platform.

So now let’s have a look at what industry experts are picking out as the pros and cons of AMP.

Pro – Search visibility

Over the last year or so, AMP results are popping up more and more in mobile search carousels – the Google specific content display in mobile browsers.

This is a double ‘pro’ when you look at the increasing evidence that Google seems keen to rank AMP content in ordinary search listings too. Page speed has grown in importance since mid-2016 – so AMP looks like it can only ever be an SEO benefit moving forward.

Con – AMP advertising is a bit of an unknown

AMP’s lightweight HTML framework pulls the plug on various advertising methods – popups in particular.

For people creating a revenue with any of these advertising methods – AMP might not look like the best option – although clearly this has to be weighed up against the positives; promising a question that’s going to be difficult to anticipate an answer to.

Some companies say they’re generating the same revenue from their AMP content as they were prior to implementation – so the question is, are you ready to take a leap of faith?

Pro – Improved CTRs

The click through rates that are being attributed to AMP stories seem extremely impressive – and going strong with 1 year+ results under their statistical belt.

Major sites are reporting 25%-30% increase in click-throughs from mobile search results – and adverts within AMP content are seeing a 65%+ increase in click throughs – something that’s not going to harm anyone’s conversion rates!

Con – Implementation

There seems to be some fairly universal groans from developers relating to the implementation of AMP – owing largely to it’s fairly restrictive framework.

The feeling is this – AMP isn’t the tool for you unless your site is already close to the top of the performance game anyway, especially true since there are a decent number of standard HTML gains that can be bagged more quickly and simply.

Get fast, then get AMP.

Pro – Greater traffic and revisits

We’ve already covered the fact that Google is placing AMP results higher in search listings and more prominently in carousel – but what’s more difficult to quantify is the impression that AMP content is having on users.

The stripped back feel of AMP stories makes it slightly more difficult to stand out from the crowd – although when a site does, you can expect traffic to keep coming back, no doubt impressed by the layout and speedy delivery time.

Depending on the case-studies you read, you can witness companies seeing increases of somewhere between 23% and 44% in new monthly visitors – with around 73% increase in monthly visitors returning shortly thereafter.

The message? Readers are voting with their feet – and they like AMP.

Pro – You get a Google content delivery network

A big factor in the delivery speed of AMP content relates to the fact that Google caches the content – and as a result, you can modify your URL so that the content is dished up directly from the cache.

This is a bonus if you’re paying for a content delivery network elsewhere and you can be certain that’s Google’s is always going to be up there with the best.

Con – Somewhat limited functionality

In its first incarnation there were serious HTML gaps in what was possible on an accelerated mobile page – with a notable exception being around forms. Now, that’s developing slightly and there are tools that can be integrated to enable some basic patches over the holes – but we’re a long way from complex product pages.

It’s not just visitor page interaction that’s lacking either – if you’re keen on in depth metrics from your page, you’re going to want to make sure AMP fits the bill before you invest too much time or effort making it happen.

Pro – An increasing number of implementation tools

Now, it’s clear the implementation niggles that developers have been having with the AMP plug in is something that’s occurring across the board – evident because new tools are being developed to make the process somewhat easier.

From testing tools to WordPress plugins – there are new resources being developed all the time to support your move to AMP.

What it all boils down to…

Ultimately, AMP is a choice – is the increased page delivery speed going to bolster your conversions by an amount that warrants venturing into new territory? And importantly, are you doing enough to bolster page speed already – without the big chunk of work that’s going to come when you try to take advantage of AMP?

At this stage, AMP isn’t a foregone conclusion for your site – instead, it’s a big bunch of questions that you need to ask to find your way forward…

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