Thursday January 26, 2017

Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

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In the spirit of AMP – which is all about instant gratification – I’ll give our take on this right away.

If digital content is a significant part of your marketing operation, then yes – your small business should use AMP.

Now, some context.

What is AMP?

AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is a minimal, stripped-down style of HTML and streamlined CSS that is designed specifically to make web pages load as quickly as possible for mobile users. (According to Google, AMP pages load 85% faster than traditional mobile websites.) Launched by Google in 2015, this open source initiative is meant to improve mobile user experience. By using restricted HTML along with a handful of other tools such as an off-the-shelf JavaScript library, AMP allows you to make pages with static content that render fast. 

TL;DR: AMP = content that loads real fast on your phone.

If you’ve done a search from your phone and seen the lightning bolt next an article (see below) – those are AMP articles.

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If you haven’t yet, try doing a search from your phone and click an AMP article. Pretty fast, right?   

Why is AMP important?

For one, no matter what business you’re in, the fact is that mobile internet users surpassed desktop in 2014 and the gap has been widening since. In 2015, research by investment giant KPCB confirmed that we’re well past the tipping point, with time spent on mobile media in the US coming in at 51%, compared to desktop’s 42%.

On top of this, your audience is increasingly likely to expect instantaneous content. This is especially true if you’re attempting to market to Millennials, or the generation after them – which I recently learned we’re apparently calling Generation Z. (Didn’t leave ourselves much room to keep going with this alphabet thing.)

As Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence-Central, noted in a recent Forbes interview after completing a study in 2016, “Generation Z consumers gravitate to instantaneous social channels such as Snapchat, Instagram, and the new social app Musical.ly… This generation has grown up with instant response as its baseline expectation. We can count on at least three platforms we’ve never heard of rising to social prominence next year that embrace faster, more pictorial, and more spontaneous ways for rising Gen Z to bond.”

According to recent studies, more than half of website visitors spend under 15 seconds on a website before navigating away. AMP helps publishers attract and retain readers on their blog and landing pages. Furthermore, after examining the online behavior of over two billion visitors, web analytics company Chartbeat discovered that 29% of smartphone users immediately leave a website if it loads too slowly or if they can’t find what they're looking for. 

Finally, while Google has noted that AMP is not currently a ranking factor in search results, there is a strong relationship between ranking and page speed. And as Google moves toward the release of its mobile index, many expect this correlation to become even more pronounced.

In short, your readers and your audience expect your content to load lightning fast. AMP is your nitro booster. 

What are the downsides to AMP?

While AMP should, in theory, be a boon for publishers and content marketers – some aren’t so sure the movement is a good thing. Most of the anxiety has been stemming from two factors:

  • Because AMP articles load on Google’s network rather than the publisher’s, they appear to be Google articles if you’re looking at the URL.
  • Critics who see Google’s influence on the internet as already outsized worry about another instance where everyone feels forced to hand over more control.

Both concerns are valid, and depending on your goals, they may be enough to stop you from using AMP. But given the reality of how people prefer to consume content and Google’s dominant role in delivering it, taking a pass on AMP will likely mean diminishing returns on mobile traffic. If you’re a small business, you may not be able to afford that loss in visibility.

How should you use AMP?

AMP is meant for pages to deliver static content, which means they don’t require the same level of interaction from the user; this is in part what makes the pages load faster than regular HTML. 

So, use them for your blogs, articles and other content pages – not your homepage, service pages, product pages or sign-up pages. Keep in mind that forms are not allowed on AMP pages, nor is custom JavaScript.

When you accelerate pages, you’re putting speed and readability as the top priority over everything else.

How to create AMP pages

For developers, there are tutorials online that walk through the process for creating AMP pages. For the rest of us, there are fortunately platforms that make it relatively straightforward.

WordPress offers an AMP plugin, as does Yoast, if you’re already using that for SEO. HubSpot has started rolling out AMP for partner agencies, and intends to have it available for all users in the first quarter of 2017.

Also, if you’re using Google Analytics, your marketing team can implement AMP analytics which provides an Analytics tag specifically to track user interaction with AMP pages while conforming to AMP requirements.  

Whichever tools and platforms you’re using, it is best to have your marketing or web development team manage AMP enablement in case any issues need troubleshooting during rollout. (If there are page errors with an AMP version of a page, that could hurt the mobile page’s rank and visibility – which is probably the opposite of what you’re hoping to accomplish.) 

If you’re interested in learning more about what AMP is, how it works and how other companies and publishers have benefited from it, head over to The AMP Project.

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Written by Charlie Nadler | Tags: seo

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