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What Are Accelerated Mobile Pages & Should You Even Care?

What Are Accelerated Mobile Pages?

Often abbreviated to AMP, accelerated mobile pages are more or less exactly what they sound like: web pages that load quickly on mobile devices. A technology developed with the support of Google, WordPress and Twitter, AMP listings began to appear on mobile search engine result pages (SERPs) as of the 23rd February 2016 and are indicated by the presence of the AMP icon seen in the example below.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Assassins Creed Example

While there is a lot to say about accelerated mobile pages, all you really need to know about them from a usability perspective is that they allow visitors to benefit from faster loading times. AMP-powered listings achieve this by using a streamlined version of HTML and CSS code, in conjunction with asynchronous JavaScript from the AMP JavaScript Library. Third-party author written JavaScript can be used on occasion but is limited to IFrames so they cannot impact the main page’s load time.

Cutting through the jargon, all this basically means is web pages are stripped of anything Google deems unnecessary. Basic aesthetic elements remain but are considerably reduced in order to ensure they do not slow the site down and negatively impact the user-experience. For instance, images and videos will not load until they are scrolled onto the display screen. This keeps initial load times to a minimum so that visitors can begin reading content without having to wait.

Since announcing the project back in October 2015, Google has steadily increased the significance of accelerated mobile pages. Though Google has been swift to point out that accelerated mobile pages are not a direct ranking factor, the benefits provided – streamlined code, fast loading, improved user-experience – undoubtedly are. What’s more, since AMP is been backed by Google, we can reasonably assume that one day it will become an SEO ranking factor.Accelerated Mobile Pages Featured Snippet Example

In fact, AMP has already developed into something of a semi-SEO ranking factor. The most recent example of this was the September 2017 Google Update, which increased the likelihood of an AMP-powered page being displayed in the Featured Snippet of a mobile search (seen right).

So should you care about accelerated mobile pages? Academically, yes, but we’re not sure how invested you should get from a practical standpoint. Being a relatively new technology, there will more than likely be numerous kinks that require ironing out. Moreover, the majority of web developers will be relatively inexperienced with building sites utilising AMP-technology. Therefore it will end up costing you more in terms of time and money while they familiarise themselves with the benefits and limitations of the refined code.

There of course benefits (as well as risks) of being an early adopter of new technology but unless you are a prevalent blogger or news publisher, the benefits are limited at this point. The digital marketing community has been keeping a close eye on AMP developments over the past year and a half, and there are many who doubt it will become a web development mainstay.

Data is relatively thin on the ground but it is hard to see how websites reliant on visitors doing more than reading will benefit. Written content on an e-commerce platform, for example, is important but so too are images, variation dropdowns, size guides, ratings, reviews, videos, social sharing buttons, cross-selling options and much more. Content alone cannot create a positive user experience, so what impact would online retailers see if they converted to AMP?

The lack of data-led case studies makes adopting AMP a great risk, as only sites with high levels of organic traffic will be able to accurately gauge the effect switching over has. However, sites with this level of traffic will not be eager to jeopardise their place on Google SERPs, especially for something that gives with one hand but may well take away with the other. Will the potential increase in traffic be accompanied by decreased engagement? If so, which one will offset the other?

In the end, it will be up to each website to determine whether or not the risk is justified. At this stage, however, there is simply not enough information to accurately estimate the effect adopting accelerated mobile pages will have on a website’s overall performance.