How Google AMP Could Affect Authors

I took a little break from the social media explorations, and recently returned to work, so it was back to the podcasts again. I decided to give a listen to the Social Media Marketing podcast and the most recent episode was a real eye opener! It is an often tense discussion about the AMP initiative and what bloggers and website owners should know about them.

AMP is an initiative that Google and other companies are starting to implement in order to aid with the mobile website browsing experience. AMP actually stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and, as the official website for the initiative states:

For many, reading on the mobile web is a slow, clunky and frustrating experience – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Google wants to have mobile pages that load very quickly. Studies show that if a web page takes longer than 2.5 seconds to load on a mobile device, 40% of potential visitors leave the page!  That is a great deal of possible audience abandoning your content if you have slow loading pages! So, the prevailing logic used to be, “Make sure your website has a mobile version so it loads faster. Google will give your site priority if it’s optimized for mobile users.” Anyone with a WordPress site (regardless of whether it’s a WordPress dot com site like this one or a self-hosted site like my official website) tended to have a mobile version almost automatically with their themes. I know many other providers of small to mid size websites and blogs (like Weebly, Wix, Blogger, tumblr, et al) also have this feature.

But AMP is going to take things several steps further.

In order to accelerate a web page for maximum loading speed, a web browser like Chrome or Firefox needs to not have to process Javascript and PHP and many other more advanced website building languages. In fact, straight up HTML gives you the fastest loading pages, so AMP, basically, is seeking to strip down pages to the barest coding.

The reward your page will get if you use AMP is TOP priority for your pages or site in Google Search. Already, some of the biggest sites (especially news sites like The Washington Post, BBC, The New York Times, to name a few) are using AMP pages. Why? Because they want their pages to be the top pages that show up in Google Search for any news story.

What does a site give up in order to be AMP optimized? Well, that’s the big question, because stripping a site down to the barest HTML means a LOT gets taken out of the coding:

  • No more navigation menus, apparently.
  • No more pop ups at all, not even one to grab someone’s email address on the way off the site.
  • Speaking of email, no more opt in forms.
  • No more social sharing buttons, especially the social sharing that keeps count of how many times an article or post has been shared already.
  • No comments!
  • I don’t even know if something like SumoMe can be used.

Just by looking at that list, you can see why someone like Michael Stelzner would start having a meltdown over this news. What, no social sharing buttons?  And for anyone trying to build an email list (and frankly, who isn’t trying to build an email list these days) is in for a bit of a trial, not having that nice and easy opt in form on the website page…

How do you know if you should use AMP or not? The quick answer would be no, but some analysis is needed before jumping to that conclusion. Your best bet is to go to your Google Analytics and check for some things:

  • Check if your traffic is more mobile than desktop. If you’ve got more than 50% traffic coming from mobile, if I were you, I’d pay attention.
  • Check to see if that mobile traffic is coming to you from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or anyplace else besides Google Search. If the majority of your website traffic is not coming from Google Search, stop here and do nothing! Your traffic is coming from social media, sources you don’t want to cut out of your pages by removing social share buttons! Otherwise, if you find that traffic is coming to you from Google Search, give some serious thought to AMP, at least on some of your pages.
  • If your Bounce Rate is high (meaning that people don’t go clicking around your site much, but visit the page they were directed to) then for some posts on your blog and pages on your site, you might want to consider AMP. Who needs navigation if they aren’t using it anyway? I can think of one great page to use AMP: the Landing Page! Suddenly, the pesky navigation bar and social sharing is gone, and you can have people tap the shiny red button to redirect them to your email list opt in forms (like with Mailchimp, you can just have them go to the form hosted on Mailchimp rather than have a pop up form appear when they tap the button).

Now, the question is: if a website plans to use AMP, how do they do it?

  • If you have a WordPress hosted site like this one is, then you don’t need to do a thing, because AMP is already being used. Since we don’t have the ability to embed much on these WordPress hosted sites anyway, there’s little to lose by having AMP on our sites.
  • If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, there is a free plugin you can download here. However, according to this article (which is the link to the same Social Media Examiner article above), there is another plugin (also free) called PageFrog that will give you better control over using AMP on your site. Some website owners might decide to use AMP on some pages but not all (this might be me).
  • Other publishers are starting to implement it, but information on implementation for Blogger, Weebly, Wix and others is scant at this point. If you are using one of those platforms for your site and you are interested in AMP, try the Help centers for these platforms.

At this point, AMP is still a decision you can make regarding your site (unless you’re using WordPress dot com), but from what I can tell, AMP is going to become a bigger factor as Google starts to further reward search ranking with implementation. There will probably come a time when work-arounds using plain HTML will have to substitute for some of the pretty plugins and Javascript we’ve been using on our author websites. What do you think of AMP? Do you already use AMP, and have you seen a difference in your website traffic from Google Search?
click here to find out

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