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Google AMPs: a potential godsend for SEO?

By Pierre Ogier, senior SEO account manager

Harvest Digital

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March 24, 2016 | 5 min read

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) is a Google-backed project intended as an open standard for any publisher to have their pages load quickly on mobile. The goal of AMP is to speed up news content on the mobile Web by caching the webpage before the user clicks.

It all started from an embarrassing observation: mobile devices are not well-equipped to handle heavy content designed for desktop. Mobile ad networks are particularly at a disadvantage. Heavy banners that fail to load properly leave a bad user experience with blank space in the scroll. And on top of that, mobile users are twice more impatient than Desktop users.

AdWeek reported that “The average mobile user starts scrolling on a website 13 seconds after content begins loading. Desktop readers instead, scroll down after 24 seconds.”

So, publishers and technology companies have had to find solutions - not around changing mobile user behaviour - but instead to standardise mobile coding practices and create a brand new technology that delivers content loading speeds 4x faster than previous.

Where to see AMP HTML documents?

Since February 23th Google search result pages serve a news box widget called the Top Stories carousel. It only triggers on newsworthy search queries like ‘Trump’ or ‘AMA awards’. In Twitter, it should take the form of a vertical news feed sitting in their own news curation service called Twitter Moments. In LinkedIn, AMP documents should appear in the form of vertical feeds that already stand in their official newsstand called Pulse.

How do you take advantage of AMP?

Guidelines from Google as well as industry research have shown that publishers’ mobile set up has to be perfect before going for AMP HTML pages. A full list of requirements is available from the Harvest Digital website, but includes:

HTTPS Pages - Google takes security very seriously and wants to protect users from malware tucked inside custom fonts or adverts.

Cross-annotations between Mobile & Desktop - This is a classic fix in terms of SEO which allows GoogleBot to discover your mobile pages without mistaking them for duplicate content.

Schema Structured Data – Schema.org seems to be compulsory for content to appear Google Top Stories carousel. While a large majority of publishers already rely on this technology, not everyone is there.

Who can benefit?

You don’t need to be a major publisher to turn your mobile pages into AMP HTML. Due to its open-source aspect, anyone can switch to AMP HTML documents. Actually, WordPress is already offering such a system via a plugin called amp-wp.

So, will AMP be a potential godsend for SEO?

In the long run, Google will favour AMP sites in search results over pages with otherwise identical ranking scores. That will be taken as godsend for SEOs who now have an entirely new set of recommendations to make to their clients. This is entirely consistent with Google’s previous policies of favouring faster loading websites.

Being consistent with mobile

Google hasn’t made it entirely clear, but the signs are there that over the years they have been gently promoting responsive design over adaptive design or separate mobile sites. This maybe why AMP has never had a defined launch date.

Unfortunately for people who have committed to responsive design, AMP now requires them to step back and revert to separately hosted mobile pages tagged with AMP HTML tags. Eventually mobile traffic will need to be redirected from a responsive design site to a separate mobile site.

A load of conventions

Taking advantage of AMP HTML requires a big commitment from site owners. Google has essentially loaded requirements with a whole set of specifications and conventions it sees as being good for the overall digital landscape.

Not only do AMP documents require an SSL certificate (HTTPS), but also site owners need to resolve duplicate content issues beforehand and finally deploy Structured Data mark-ups (Schema.org) to have a chance to appear in Google’s Top Stories carousel. Not an easy programme. Needless to say that publishers who have recently had to turn to Apple News or Facebook Instant Articles and may continue to innovate with AMP HMTL as they don’t want to be left behind.

Pierre Ogier is senior SEO account manager at Harvest Digital.

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Harvest Digital

Harvest Digital is a leading performance-based full service digital marketing agency based in the heart of London. Our clients span many different sectors – finance,...

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